Introduction:As kids, I think just about every one of us has made something out of cardboard. I made cars, forts, robots, and much more out of this simple material. Today I carry on that tradition with my kids making houses for their toys and recently a cardboard guitar. All you need is some imagination and hands on work and you can create anything your mind comes up with. Doug TenNapel taps into that world with his latest offering through the Scholastic imprint Graphix.
Creator: Doug TenNapel
Writer: Doug TenNapel
Artist: Doug TenNapel
Content: Cardboard is an all ages book and contains action scenes, monsters, and elements of drama.
Story:Mike is a down on his luck carpenter who only needs a break to get his life back on track. Today is the worst day to be out of a job as it is also his son’s birthday. He only wants to get a few bucks together to get something nice for his son on his birthday and happens upon a toy salesman with a cart on the side of the road. All he can afford is a giant cardboard box that amounts to the exact change in his pocket. Mike thinks it is silly, but what can he do? The mysterious salesmen stipulates two rules, he must bring back the scraps he doesn’t’ use and he cannot come back to ask for more.
While the neighborhood rich kids scoff at the idea of a cardboard box Mike’s son Cam is all aboard the idea of making something with his dad. They work late into the night and create a boxer, complete with red boxing gloves and blue boxing shorts. Mike leaves Cam asleep on the couch and heads to bed himself happy that he survived the day.
Things get weird when the boxer they make comes to life, speaking, moving, sleeping just like a normal person and announces that his name is Bill. When the neighbors find out about Mike and Cam’s new friend, some are happy, while others are jealous and seek to discover the secret behind the magic life-giving cardboard.
When the neighborhood bully Marcus gets his hands on a supply of the material, their world gets turned topsy turvy and if Cam, Bill, and Mike can’t stop Marcus and his new army of cardboard monsters then their neighborhood and the very world could be at risk.
Review:There was something that Cardboard touched in me on a personal level that drew me right in. While I don’t think my family was ever in the dire straights that Mike and Cam were, we were never what I would call “rich” and had to come up with a lot of our play time through our imagination. We would make blanket forts, create paper swords, and definitely made a lot of things out of cardboard. It was readily available and we came up with all kinds of cool things. Granted they were usually weapons that we beat each other with, but it was all in good fun.
There is a lot going on in this original graphic novel and TenNapel handles it well. Mike is a grieving father who recently lost his wife and is raising Cam in the midst of a down economy with little work for him as a carpenter. As Cam puts it, “We can’t even afford meat with our mac and cheese!”
I really liked the comedic timing of the story as well. There were quite a few times I chuckled out loud and that can be rare for me as a reader. TenNapel has crafted a great comedic adventure that is moves at a fast pace, has a lot of heart, and makes you laugh as well.
TenNapel’s art on Cardboard was also a treat. He has a definite style with his wide eyed characters and use of shadows, but you see a lot of his detail work in the cardboard creations that have a lot of detail in their design and implementation.
Conclusion:I enjoyed the graphic novel Cardboard. It wasn’t necessarily perfect in the art and story as there were some sappy moments for sure and the end wrapped up rather well, but the comic made me laugh, reminisce about my childhood, and I may have even teared up a bit at the end there. What more could you ask for? If you like whimsical adventures and like to root for the underdog, than this is a great graphic novel that many family members will enjoy.
A copy of this graphic novel was provided by the publisher.