Middle Grade Monday: A Uniquely Crafted Graphic Novel, The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining graphic novel that should keep any youngster hooked then I’ve got the book for you!

The Cardboard Kingdom is a collection of short stories compiled into a graphic novel that follows a group of kids in their neighborhood throughout the course of one summer. Each story is written by a different collaborator and the whole book is illustrated by Chad Sell.

The Cardboard Kingdom
Image: Cover of The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

It’s colorful and with the short story element this book is easy to read in small sittings or all at once depending on the reader. I appreciated this because I often struggle with feeling like I should be able to read a graphic novel in one sitting and this one allowed me to set it down multiple times and come back to it when I had more time to dedicate to this world! Each story begins with a title page that has more of a sketch style of art and interwoven in the stories are also pieces of art that bring to life the make believe aspects. Some are more concept art style while others are built into the panels as you find the children living the stories they’ve created. I found myself immersed in the storytelling and enjoyed seeing how each character was brought to life as the play acting became interwoven with the immense fantasy world this neighborhood made.

The characters within these stories are diverse and I appreciated seeing how many of the kids connected things that were going on in their real lives with their characters and storylines in the fantasy world. There was a variety of home lives represented. Kids with married parents, divorced parents, fighting parents, single parents, grandparents. And while nothing was expressly stated I could pick out characters that seemed neurodivergent or LGBT+. One notable character for this is that of The Sorceress, or Jack. Another thing I’ll note is that I would have appreciated seeing a physically disabled character, I think that’s one aspect where this lacked. I know it’s hard to fit every form of representation into a book but there could have been a lot of interesting storylines surrounding something like creating a costume for a wheelchair user, etc.

The Cardboard Kingdom celebrates creativity and imagination. It allowed children to choose characters they resonated with and bring them to life. And even as heroes squared off with villains and tensions ran high there were plenty of softer moments where it warmed my heart to see how this neighborhood of kids accepted one another. I think that kids will love the colorful and easy to read style of the comics. There’s a wide variety of characters that just about anybody would be able to find themselves relating to at least one. It’s an accessible short story style and I highly recommend this! I also think that older readers would find themselves enjoying this too. I know I for one felt nostalgic for the summers when I was younger and spent most of my days running around outside creating these dramatic scenarios with my younger sister.

And to add, on Chad Sell’s website there are free coloring pages as well as paper craft designs that can be downloaded and used to create costumes based on those in the book! You can find these at chadsellcomics.com

You can add The Cardboard Kingdom on Goodreads here.

And if you’re interested in purchasing your own copy you can find it at the following links:

Barnes & Noble // Bookshop // IndieBound (if you’re interested in finding a local store to shop through!)

I’d also like to note that the sequel to The Cardboard Kingdom was released in June of this year. I haven’t read it yet but I’m definitely planning on picking it up so I thought I’d add the links for that book here as well.

Add Roar of the Beasts on Goodreads here.

And here are the purchase links (I didn’t include the IndieBound link because it’s the same as up above):

Barnes & Noble // Bookshop

And with that, I’m signing off! If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? I really can’t wait to pick up the sequel.

I’ll talk to you all in my next post though if you’re interested in connecting with me before then, here are my links!

Twitter: nihilisticactus

Readerly: sideofadventure

For review inquiries, etc. my email is: adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

You can add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews my profile is linked here.

And if you’d like to buy me a coffee, my Ko-fi is linked here.

Graphic Novel Review: Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo

*This post may contain spoilers*

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this graphic novel. Eat, and Love Yourself is out today for purchase 🙂

Eat, and Love Yourself

Synopsis:

A story about Mindy, a woman living with an eating disorder who has to learn how to love herself again.

In pursuit of the perfect body, Mindy buys the low-fat diet products and the glossy magazines which promise the secret to losing weight. One night, while perusing the aisles of the neighborhood convenience store for a midnight snack, she finds a new product. A chocolate bar called “Eat and Love Yourself”. On a whim, Mindy buys the curious candy, not knowing that with every piece of chocolate she eats, she will be brought back to a specific moment of her past — helping her to look at herself honestly, learn to love her body the way it is, and accepting love. Perhaps, she will even realize that her long lost high school best friend, Elliot, was more than just a friend…

Rating:

Untitled design-3

Review:

TW: Depression, Bulimia, Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders

I was intrigued by this graphic novel from the get go. I stumbled across it on NetGalley and wanted to read it right away and while I absolutely loved the artwork, the story itself fell somewhat flat.

Body image and eating disorders and anything that falls in that realm is incredibly nuanced and complex and I think that one aspect of this story that missed the mark was the length. I think that anyone would say that 160 pages would be difficult to tell a complete story in, especially one that contains the topics that this one does and I feel as if this could have benefitted from more content. The synopsis (which I didn’t read until after I had finished reading it) tells the story entirely. While normally I wouldn’t mind, as it does a great job of summing up the story, it made me realize that I really felt like the story was too short. There wasn’t enough explanation, inner thought, or conclusion. I ended my time reading only wanting more, but not in terms of a sequel, just more from what I was given. The ending was abrupt and everything else really only breached the surface of the topic at hand.

From the story that we were given I feel wishy washy in terms of my opinion. Again, I loved the artwork but because nothing related to the plot was fleshed out I was left with more questions than answers. I loved the arc of self acceptance and was overall pleased with the story in general but I constantly felt like I was reading the highlights or a sneak peek of this graphic novel rather than an almost finished product. I know that this book was about self love but I couldn’t help but wonder where the interpersonal relationships were, why the characters interacted the way that they did, why certain conversations led to others. The flashback scenes only provided so much context.

I think if the author was going for a broad, more universally understandable story about a woman’s journey to self love she hit that mark. But this story held so much potential that just wasn’t there. It has the important messages of looking back at oneself and finding contentment and self love in the midst of disordered eating and thoughts but it was all surface level. As someone who has spent much of their life struggling with self image and disordered eating I loved the memories that Mindy was given that allowed her to step back and look at how she ended up in the spot that she was in. The book did open up the line of self reflection which I know is something that a lot of people struggle with.

This is the type of book to spark conversations and again, I cannot praise the artwork more, and if you’re looking for a graphic novel that ties in body positivity and relearning how to love yourself in the midst of personal struggles I would recommend it.