THE CARDBOARD KINGDOM
Written by Chad Sell, Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, Barbara Perez Marquez
Art by Chad Sell
Published by Knopf Books
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Oh, what a summer you will have in the Cardboard Kingdom.
Straight out of the gate, I have to say this anthology is one of the most charming and important all-ages comics I have ever read. Cartoonist Chad Sell teams with a group of exceptionally talented writers to deliver short stories about a group of elementary school aged kids and their adventures in the fantastical world of The Cardboard Kingdom. Through these stories and adventures, Sell and company tackle more complex issues than 90% off the comics you will find in the industry, and they do it with a graceful, tactful, and powerful storytelling.
Through the use of cardboard, imaginations, and community, these storytellers tackle bullying, the difficulty of making friends, tolerance, gender norms, cultural norms, romantic attraction, breaking down parental preconceptions, divorce and even the competitive arms race of business. This diverse cast of children face it all, but not in an after-school-special or heavy handed way. The problems they face are very real for the kids that will be reading this collection, and adults reading this will see their own childhood reflected within at least one story, without question. That said, the tone of this collection is light and energetic, a beam of sunshine despite troubles that may exist outside the Cardboard Kingdom.
I mentioned the cast of characters is diverse, but it must be noted just how inclusive these stories are. Sell and the writing team deliver an authentic experience for literally every race and culture you can think of, while also including characters that are members of the LGBT community. The creators do this without explicitly labelling anyone or making this story about diversity, per se, but rather just showing a modern neighbourhood in all it’s joyful glory. The Cardboard Kingdom is a fabulous example of how stories benefit from a diverse set of creative voices and characters, and I am excited for the young readers who get to see themselves represented (no matter who they are!) in the pages of this amazing collection.
Sell’s artwork is bright and grabs the eye immediately. The anthology, while written by 11 different people, is amazingly cohesive. As the sole artist, Sell brings a large part of that unifying feeling, of course, but the writers do a great job of maintaining a similar tone and pacing through their short tales. The writers each make a large impact with the pages allotted to them, and for an all-ages collection they do a great job of never straying into being too verbose. The pacing of the entire collection is a perfect representation of an adventurous summer, and spot on for the target market.
As the proud dad of a seven year old girl, I’ve read a lot of comics and ingested a lot of media meant for younger folks. Few stories have captured my attention and drawn me in like The Cardboard Kingdom did. Considering she has read the collection through several times herself before I wrote this review, I can safely say these timeless stories will connect with readers of any age. If you know of a young reader, grab this for them in June. Grab a second copy for yourself, and keep it handy for when you need to feel better about the world. The Cardboard Kingdom is a special set of stories that highlights the good in the world without ignoring the challenges we all face at some time or another, and I am proud to have read it.
The Verdict: 10/10