The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell — and a lot of his friends — is something really special for 2018. A new graphic novel from the new Random House Graphic, a new imprint from Penguin Random House headed up by Publisher Director Gina Gagliano (of First Second Books), it is thick, colourful and wonderful.
And it’s incredibly meta with it for a kid comic. It fetishises the idea of making, of crafting the imagination into something physical that can be played with — and the comic book is that itself. So we see designs, cut-outs, and plans for characters by the characters themselves. This is the graphic novel for the Nintendo Labo generation.
Sixteen children, one neighbourhood, competing fantasies, and a switching viewpoint between the cardboard box reality and the world of imagination reminiscent of the likes of Muppet Babies, one that can be altered and debated from the outside. The large cast demands a large book, 288 pages long (or over a year of a Marvel or DC comic book), and a chance for the reader to get engrossed in the various worlds.
But don’t expect confusion from such a cast — each is introduced piecemeal, combining together through infinite variations and telling a shared story. It’s as much a comics crossover was anything else, just crossing over with itself. This is Iron Man through Infinity War in one comic.
The art also jumps with differing context too. The comic book storytelling has hard black lines against soft colours of the world, but the fantasy and spot illustrations knock them back further, extending the moment that could represent hours in one splash. It’s a very engaging set of comic book tools to employ and stops the book feeling samey across its length.
I would give you a full and frank review of every page, but it was grabbed off my desk by my youngest, who has now told me it is hers now. Maybe I’ll get it back sometime soon…
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell is published on June 5th from Random House Graphic, part of Random House Children’s Books and the Alfred A Knopf Books For Young Readers imprint.
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Awkward, and All’s Faire in Middle School, this graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes as they explore conflicts with friends, family, and their own identity.
“A breath of fresh air, this tender and dynamic collection is a must-have.” –Kirkus, Starred
Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters–and their own inner demons–on one last quest before school starts again.
In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be–imagine that!
The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The Cardboard Kingdom affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth.