There is something about graphic novels for kids that I find so imaginative. I feel like they have become a comfort to me, so last Friday at a Scholastic preview, when my coworker brought home Doug TenNapel’s new graphic novel Cardboard, I knew I had to have it. I walked past her desk repeatedly, fixated on the book (which was quite literally staring me down). Finally, after my fixation became apparent, she handed it to me. Remember those Scholastic book orders from when you were a kid? This was just like that.
Cardboard is the story, mainly, about a father and son. After losing his wife and the mother of his only child, Mike struggles to raise Cam on his own. Not only does he doubt his capability to be everything for Cam, but he knows that as the economy dwindles, financial support is becoming a more prominent issue. After failing to get work to support a birthday gift for Cam, Mike begrudgingly takes a cardboard box from a mysterious man who encouraged him to make something of it with his son. He only has a few rules, and they are simple, but firm.
Delighted just to be spending time with his dad, Cam dives into the cardboard project head first. Within a few hours, Mike and Cam have created a man (a boxer, to be precise) completely out of cardboard. However, Cam and Mike soon realize that there was something special about that cardboard box when their creation, Bill, comes to life.
Next to being a fun story, Cardboard deals with some pretty emotional subjects: single parents, the death of a parent, bullying, financial stability and more. As an adult myself (though not with children), I really respected Mike’s character and adored how his life revolved around making his son happy. But even Mike learns that you do have to think of yourself sometimes too. At the same time, the kid-at-heart in me loved Cam and the way he was still childish, while always airing on the mature side to stand beside and support for his father. Other characters help to provide some comic relief. Marcus, the goth bully from next door and his pet rat, Fang are both hilarious and intriguing, and Tina, the neighbour who clearly has an eye for Mike gives the narrative a little sass and romance.
Cardboard combined issues from both childhood and adulthood, packaged together in fun and imaginative illustrations. This book will touch your heart, make you laugh and be a fun read for both kids and adults! Oh, and as a personal side note, the expressions in this book are some of the best I have seen yet in my graphic novel adventures! If you haven’t seen/read TenNapel’s previous work, you can get an idea of his drawing style from these sketches of Cam (from his Tumblr site)! Enjoy!
Cardboard releases in stores August 1st! Thank you to Scholastic Canada for providing the copy used for this review!