Cover Image

Cardboard by D. TenNapel



TenNapel, Doug. Cardboard. New York: Scholastic Graphix, 2012. Print.

Following award winning Ghostopolis and Bad Island, acclaimed author and illustrator Doug TenNapel delivers another highly enjoyable graphic novel with Cardboard. The story begins with down-and-out dad, Mike, desperately needing a birthday present for his son Cam. With less than a dollar in his pocket, Mike happens upon a strange man who is selling cheap toys. Old Man Gideon is peculiar, but offers Mike a very special present for his son: a cardboard box. Not only does Mr. Gideon rave about what a stupendous present the box is, he explains that there are two rules that come with ownership of the box. Mike agrees to the conditions without paying much attention to them, and takes the box. At home, Cam tries to hide his disappointment with his birthday present, and agrees to work with his dad to turn the box into something better - a boxer. Later that night, Cam is awoken by his cardboard creation, a boxing champion named Bill, who has magically come to life! Rich kid and neighborhood bully, Marcus, can’t believe his eyes when he sees Bill mowing Cam’s lawn the next day, and wants Bill for himself. When Cam refuses to trade Bill for any of the expensive toys that Marcus offers, Marcus steals the remaining scraps of magic cardboard from Cam’s room and begins making cardboard creations of his own – evil ones. Soon Marcus has created so many monsters that he loses control of them, and in desperation turns to Cam for help. What follows is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure through the world of Marcus’ imagination. The boys form a bond as they struggle to escape and save each other from a variety of vicious monsters. Both Marcus and Mike are transformed by these experiences, resulting in an uplifting ending that offers readers hope.

TenNapel deftly weaves together themes of friendship, poverty, bullying, and loss in this engaging and beautifully illustrated graphic novel. The cover itself is difficult to pass up, as the intense yellow eyes on the cover can’t help but elicit curiosity. The illustrations are well-suited to the story; they are highly animated and expressive, and the cardboard characters are delightfully cartoonish. The colors used throughout are an effective backdrop for the story and contribute to the overall setting and mood. I would recommend this book for upper elementary and middle school students and reluctant readers in particular. It is sure to capture the imaginations of all readers: What would you make if you had a box made of magic cardboard?

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Metthea Maddern​

Matthea is a Masters student in the Teacher-Librarianship through Distance Learning Program at the University of Alberta.