The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell & others | SLJ Review

Gr 4-7 –A diverse group of neighborhood children use cardboard, tape, and other materials to create a pretend fantasy world.

redstarSELL, Chad & others. The Cardboard Kingdom. illus. by Chad Sell. 288p. Knopf. Jun. 2018. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781524719371; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781524719388.

Gr 4-7 –A diverse group of neighborhood children use cardboard, tape, and other materials to create a pretend fantasy world. When Jack puts on his purple robe and cardboard hair, he becomes the powerful and evil Sorceress. Though Sophie’s grandmother tells her that girls shouldn’t be loud, Sophie feels like her true self when she transforms into the boisterous Big Banshee, a green, Hulk-like monster. And when Seth, whose parents are divorcing, dons a purple mask and cape and turns into the Gargoyle, he feels strong enough to stand up to his increasingly erratic and aggressive father. The chapters each focus on a different character and deftly build on one another. The art is bold and cartoonlike. Panels seamlessly transition between what characters look like in their makeshift costumes and how they appear in their imagination. While the tone is light, Sell and several contributors (each of whom is responsible for a different character and chapter) tackle serious issues, such as gender stereotypes, bullying, and divorce, that will resonate with kids. The children’s playacting is not only fun—it also gives them a safe space to express themselves. Readers may be inspired to craft their own cardboard kingdom after finishing the book. VERDICT  A must-have for middle grade collections.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

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