The Cardboard Kingdom
Illustrated by Chad Sell
Written by Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, and Barbara Perez Marquez.
The Summer after fourth grade, my parents bought a refrigerator. It came in a giant cardboard box. That was the best summer ever. We had kids from all over the neighborhood come to play in our giant cardboard box. It was anything we wanted it to be and it was always fun. In today’s world of electronic instant gratification, the concept seems absurd. Why go pretend a box is a fortress when, inside a video game, you can just build a fortress that actually looks just like a fortress. I am sad for the adventures of summer that seem long gone and just thrilled that there are still kid’s books out there that capture it.
The Card Board Kingdom is a graphic novel about a neighborhood of 16 kids who with their imaginations and the help of some throwaway cardboard have the best adventures ever. Written by a number of authors and masterfully illustrated by artist Chad Sell, the book captures the essence of summer in a rather unique way. Mixed into the stories of epic quests of knights, mages, robots and the occasional innkeeper, are stories of real kids dealing with real issues.
This novel is geared toward the middle grades, but the stories within are safe for and will appeal to readers of all ages. Younger grades will enjoy the fun adventures and costumes. Middle graders will relate to some of the darker undertones their younger cohorts might miss. Themes such as being the new kids in the neighborhood, difficulty making friends, bullying, parental separation, gender conformity, and domestic violence are woven into the story at a kid’s perception level. The stories show that life throws some curve balls, but kids do have a voice and the ability to have some control over their rapidly changing world. Older kids and adults will simply enjoy the nostalgia of days gone by when summer was all about having fun together with a bunch of friends or a bunch of soon to be friends.
My particularly favorite stories are The Gargoyle, The Bully, and Professor Everything with his buddy The Scribe (who together remind me just a bit of my son). I giggled at the single-minded determination of The Alchemist and her solution to her troubles was simply epic in a way most adults could learn from. My heart broke for The Sorceress, who just wants to believe he can be magical, powerful and amazing. As a parent, I can guarantee that he, like all children, is that in spades. The whole book was a colorful adventure.
For those who would like to follow up on the adventure, coloring book pages and costume designs from the book are available on Chad Sell’s website
Chad Sell grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin. He lived in a neighborhood much like the Cardboard Kingdom, where he and his friends bounded through backyards in imaginative games and outfits. He also drew a lot and came up with all kinds of colorful characters. His favorites were often the villains, because despite being different and misunderstood, they were powerful and confident, and they got the best costumes. Chad lives in Chicago with his husband and two cats.