Books for Babes provides info on the sort of comics that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. This week we recommend ‘The Cardboard Kingdom’ OGN, out June 5 from Knopf Books and Random House.
By Stefania Rudd. I don’t know what kind of kid you were, but I was certainly the kid who played with boxes. No matter the size of the box or what it held previously, it was always cut up or reconfigured into something my imagination deemed necessary for play at the time. That’s why The Cardboard Kingdom really resonated with me. In essence it’s about neighborhood kids who use their imagination to create a world with each other through the use of cardboard boxes. At its core the story goes beyond that, delving into themes of friendship, loneliness, bullying, self-confidence, gender stereotypes, and so on and so on and so on…
Illustrator Chad Sell is the hinge that holds this ambitious graphic novel anthology together. Along with 10 writers, each with their own perspective and voice, Sell cohesively creates a story told in smaller bite-sized chapters. Collectively it captures one summer for a particular neighborhood and the children who live there, ranging in age, size, ethnicity, and ability. This core group — our Cardboard Kingdom — have created character alter-egos for themselves that showcase the best of who they are, or who they aspire to be.
Each chapter explores the backstory of a child and the reason behind why they chose to be the character they are. Some stories are silly, some are heartbreaking, but each chapter speaks to the experiences we’ve all had as children. Through play they’re working out their issues, discovering more about themselves, and providing a safe space for one another to do so.
Though each author keeps to their own unique chapter, characters from other storylines weave throughout the book, which allows you to observe their own personal growth as the story progresses. The main unifier of The Cardboard Kingdom is Sell himself, who provides vivid colors that bring these pages to life. There’s one chapter that features no words, yet his artwork moved the plot along with inventiveness and heart. It’s all connected by Sell’s richly textured fantasy world.
I also really loved the little asides in-between chapters. Two-page spreads feature wonderful interactions that either wrap up a chapter, give insight to another, or act as a poignant excursion that builds character relationships. Sell also does a fantastic job of detailing the imaginations of these children, making their ideas and dreams evocative and brilliant compared to the otherwise hum-drum reality of cardboard structures scattered across their backyard. Their luminous creations illustrate how they see themselves, so we get to see them in that way, too.
The Cardboard Kingdom is an insightful and inspiring book for readers of all ages. It may resonate a bit more with the younger crowd, but that doesn’t mean its story would be lost on older kids or even adults. Chad Sell put together a book with an amazing cast of writers to share stories that are honest and relatable. A great addition to any child’s library, and one that can be enjoyed as summer vacation begins. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire kids to get out of the house, get to know their neighborhood, and start a cardboard fantasy land of their own?
Knopf Books/Random House/HC: $20.99/PB: $12.99
Written by Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, and Barbara Perez Marquez.
Illustrated by by Chad Sell.
This book contains bullying, divorce, life lessons in easy to understand, digestible pieces.
Age range: 8-12