The Cardboard Kingdom (The Cardboard Kingdom #1)

by Chad Sell (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

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.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Sell's cheerful, friendly artistic style... will appeal to fans of Victoria Jamieson. A breath of fresh air.


Starred Review
This easy-reading story offers--in a fun, engaging package--a meaningful commentary on the importance of childhood games.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In his first title for young people, cartoonist Sell offers a story that unfolds in a neighborhood where children make elaborate cardboard costumes that let them try on new personas and powers. Vijay, his older sister Shikha, and their neighbor Sophie experiment first with masks that feature fangs and horns, and their adventures draw in diverse new kids, and issues of gender, class, and culture take center stage. Jack wants to be an evil sorceress; his mother doesn't mind the gown, but rejects the cruelty. Amanda's Spanish-speaking father doesn't want her wearing a mustache ("What would they say back home?"). While the proto-capitalist Alice seems unnecessarily ruthless ("I will get my customers back... and I will crush you"), other characters are drawn with tenderness, including Miguel and Nate, who must balance traditional messages about masculinity with the attraction they feel for each other. Blocky panel artwork adds impact by flipping back and forth between what the kids envision (big monsters, epic battles) and what's actually happening (cardboard creations buckling under the onslaught of garden hoses). Imagination, these kids prove, can erase what seem like unbridgeable differences. Ages 9-12. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (June)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Vibrant and rich.... A cross between Stevenson's Nimona and Raina Telgemeier's characters"—Bulletin, starred review

Chad Sell
Chad Sell's first children's graphic novel was The Cardboard Kingdom, which he illustrated and co-wrote with a team of ten collaborators. Doodleville is his first full-length solo project, and it is set in Chicago, where he lives with his husband and two cats. Much of the story takes place in Chad's neighborhood of Lincoln Square and at one of his favorite places in the world: the Art Institute of Chicago.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
June 05, 2018
The Cardboard Kingdom
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV008000 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | General
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
Library of Congress categories
New York Times, 06/03/18
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred, 05/01/18

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