Thursday, July 19, 2012

Middle-Grade Review: Cardboard

I’m not usually a big fan of graphic novels.  I did enjoy a few of the Bone books, by author Jeff Smith, that we had around the house and my son loved the Sardine in Outer Space books by Emmanuel Guibert books when he was younger, but I rarely read or request graphic novels now.  Scholastic recently sent me a few graphic novels (uncorrected proofs) that I hadn’t asked for, so I thought I’d just take a quick look when I had a few minutes.  The first one I read was Cardboard by Doug Tennapel, and I was impressed by its clever premise and creative story.

Mike is a single father without a job.  The opening panels make it clear that he is a good guy and a skilled carpenter, but he can’t find work in the depressed economy and is becoming desperate.  Today is his son’s birthday, and he wants to get Cam something special, but he doesn’t even have enough money for food.  On his way home, he sees a roadside stand where a mysterious man is selling toys, but he can’t afford any of them.  When he mentions that his son is a really good boy who deserves a good birthday present, the man offers him an empty cardboard box for exactly the amount of change in Mike’s pocket.  Mike thinks it’s pretty lame, but he figures he and Cam can do some sort of creative project with the cardboard box.

He brings it home, and Cam good-naturedly suggests they build a boxer out of the box, so father and son work together late into the night to build a cardboard man.  While they are sleeping, the cardboard man comes to life and announces that his name is Bill.  Mike and Cam are astounded but thrilled with the magical cardboard that brought their new friend to life, but the neighborhood bully, Marcus, discovers their secret and wants the magic for himself.

The story turns into a fantastical adventure, with all sorts of cardboard creations coming to life and wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.  It’s a battle of Cam’s (and Bill’s) goodness versus Marcus’ evil, and things quickly get out of hand until the boys are no longer in control.  As I said, I’m certainly not a graphic novel expert, but I enjoyed reading this and thought the drawings and text told an interesting story.  The novel is filled with action and is fast-paced, an original and exciting story sure to please young boys and reluctant readers in particular.

285 pages, Scholastic

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