I’m a picky graphic novel reader. Like picture books, it’s the illustrations that catch my eye and then I’ll see what the story is about. There are a couple of graphic novel creators whose books I’ll grab whenever they’ve got something new coming out. The first is Garen Ewing, the creator of the Rainbow Orchid graphic novel, because he’s got a style of illustration and story that is similar to Herge’s Tintin. The second is Doug TenNapel, because his cartoony style really appeals to me and his stories are imaginative and funny. Doug’s latest graphic novel, Cardboard, is about a down-on-his-luck dad, his son, and the magic cardboard that changes their life.
Cam’s down-and-out father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday and he knows it’s the worst present ever. To make the best of a bad situation, they bend the cardboard into a man– and to their astonishment, it comes magically to life. But the neighborhood jerk, Marcus, warps the powerful cardboard into his own evil creations that threaten to destroy them all!
Cardboard is a fantastic story, filled with imagination, adventure, humour, and cardboard creations of all sorts. One of the reasons I love Doug’s work is because he creates such original stories and Cardboard is no exception. He’s taken the idea of a father building something out of cardboard with his son and thought ‘what if?’ My dad used to make awesome cardboard creations with me and my siblings when I was younger (the best being a full Batman mask) so I can totally imagine what it would have been like to have had magic cardboard. I think that’s why this story works so well, because every kid (or adult) can imagine it happening.
The thing that really draws me to Doug’s graphic novels are his illustrations, which are fantastic. Doug’s style is quite cartoony and reminds me of some of my favourite cartoons that I watched as a kid. His characters have very expressive faces, particularly their eyes. Doug’s imagination has run wild and he’s created some weird and wonderful cardboard creations, some of which go out of control. Der-Shing Helmer has done a wonderful job of the colouring, making the illustrations vibrant and bold. I especially love the front cover. It really jumps out at you and makes you want to read the book so you can find out who the giant eyes belong to.
Cardboard and Doug’s other graphic novels, Ghostopolis and Bad Island are perfect for ages 9+, especially boys, who want a great story. They are ideal for those kids who have moved on from Asterix and Tintin or for reluctant readers.