Cardboard

Doug TenNapel, Author
Doug TenNapel. Scholastic/Graphix, $12.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-545-41873-7
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-545-41872-0
Prebound-Glued - 283 pages - 978-0-606-26212-5
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This graphic novel tries to be about magic and goodness, but instead gets bogged down with creepy drawings, unfair stereotypes, and obnoxiously flat characters. Mike is unable to afford anything good for son Cam’s birthday, so he buys the boy only a cardboard box. They turn the cardboard into the shape of a man, only to have it come alive. Danger comes from Marcus, a boy readers are repeatedly told is rich, though apparently his parents can’t afford a dentist, and drawings concentrate on his bad teeth as if they’re a character flaw. Marcus wants the magical cardboard properties to himself because, well, he’s bad. Characters are shown, and drawn, as good or bad. The author also has a problem with people driving hybrids or boys having long hair. What could have been a fun fantasy tale often turns preachy, and it belittles people who look different. The story tries to add depth with the trope of a dead mother, but that theme doesn’t rescue it from occasional self-righteousness. Ages 10–14. (Aug.)
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