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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cardbaord, written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel. Graphix, Scholastic, 2012. $14.99 ages 10 and up

"I have the best, most amazing, and utterly stupendous gift in the history of the universe...but I'm saving it for a really good kid!
My son is a pretty dang good person, Mr. Gideon. He takes after his mother.
Then you must give him what every son wants from his dad...
Gideon, this is an empty box.
Empty? It's full of ideas...projects...ADVENTURE!"

What the what???

Two graphic novels in one week! Worthy of attention, and entertaining as all get out, is this story about monsters, paper sculpturing and a birthday gift that is quite remarkable.

Cam and his father are having a tough time following the death of his mother. They are doing their best to take care of each other, but life is not easy for them. Cam's father is without a job and they have no money. Not wanting to disappoint his son further, on the occasion of his birthday, Mike gets what he can afford. He gets him a cardboard box. Many of you will have explored the joys that such a box affords; I doubt that you have ever seen one such as this.

As is wont to happen in stories meant to entertain and delight children, this is no ordinary box. Gideon, the seller, has an empty box that he will sell for seventy-eight cents. It`s a deal and it comes with some conditions and much praise:

"He does like to make things.
Now you're getting it!
Make a submarine, a monster, A TRAIN!
It beats the heck out of some dumb ol'
hundred-dollar, remote-controlled car! "

An apt lesson as the Black Friday mania is such a recent memory.

And then the rules:

"First, you must return every scrap you don't use.
You mean, I have to come back you!
...and second, you can't ask me for more cardboard.
This is all you may have."

Rules quickly forgotten, Mike goes home to sheepishly celebrate his son's birthday with a cardboard box. The adventure begins when Mike and Cam create a boxer named Bill from the cardboard. Bill quickly makes their acquaintance and becomes a friend. You know that when someone has something new, and different, others will covet it. That is exactly what happens with Marcus. He is a rich, menacing bully who WANTS a friend like Bill so he steals the cardboard.

His plan quickly derails and mayhem ensues. It takes a good friend to help him out of the predicament he has created for himself. Again, this is a fast-paced and exciting adventure that will have eager readers tearing through it. Lots of lessons to learn, and without any preachiness. It's a great book about family, loss, redemption and friendship. It's humorous, bold in style, and sure to become a favorite at home or in the library. It's the perfect incentive to consider the joy to be found in a cardboard box.

Now, I am going to have to check out Doug TenNapel's previous adventures, Ghostopolis and Bad Island. Who would have thought such a thing could happen?

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