The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast by Chad Sell

The Cardboard Kingdom is one of my favourite kid’s graphic novels because it’s all about kids being their true selves. They build costumes and props out of cardboard and let their imaginations go wild. They can be a beast, a scientist or a sorceress. They are stories about acceptance but also having a whole lot of fun. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second Cardboard Kingdom book and it has just been released. I loved returning to these characters that Chad Sell brought to life and seeing what they got up to next.

Halloween is approaching and the gang are planning their costumes. Vijay is excited to make The Beast bigger, better and scarier, but when the local teenagers crush his costume, they also crush his confidence. Nate is sure he’s seen a monster in his backyard, and when he tries to rescue his stepbrother, he falls down the stairs. No one believes him though, even his stepbrother. Nate is determined to prove that the monster is real. The monster shows up again and again, all over the kingdom, but no one knows why it is there or what it wants. They only know that it is super quick and super scary. Nate gathers the best scientists, heroes and villains from across the kingdom to track the monster and crack the case.

The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast is the best kind of sequel. It reunites us with our favourite characters, builds on their stories, and has a mystery that brings them all together. Where the first book was more stand-alone stories that introduced each character, Roar of the Beast has a story arc that is woven through each of the characters’ chapters. Each chapter is written by a different author and focuses on a particular character or characters, with Chad Sell bringing the characters to life in his terrific illustrations.

I love everything that Chad Sell illustrates. I really like his style of illustration, as the kids are realistic and have great expressions. I particularly like how Chad draws the kids as their characters. You see how the kids see themselves in character. Elijah’s costume is pretty basic but he looks completely different as the character of the Blob, and Jack lets his true self shine as the Sorceress.

Although they aren’t named on the front cover, each of the authors have created wonderful characters that all kids will be able to relate to. The cast of characters is diverse in ethnicity and sexuality, which is one of the aspects I really love about the Cardboard Kingdom books. Thanks to Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, David DeMeo, Jay Fuller, Cloud Jacobs, Barbara Perez Marquez, Molly Muldoon and Katie Schenkel for giving us your characters.

If you haven’t discovered this series you need to hunt both books down. The first book has been a firm favourite in my school library since it was released, and I know kids who will be super excited when they see Roar of the Beast on the shelf. If you want to add some diversity to your graphic novel collection you need to have the Cardboard Kingdom series.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Be prepared to fall madly in love with the most stunning celebration of books that you will ever read!

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Ever since I first heard about A Child of Books I have been eagerly awaiting its release.  It is the first collaboration between Oliver Jeffers and another artist, typographical fine artist Sam Winston.  There have been a few teaser images, showing illustrations made up of text, and I knew I needed to have this book.  It has just been released and it is absolutely stunning!

A Child of Books is about a little girl who sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy. She invites him to come away with her on an adventure where they can journey through ‘forests of fairy tales’, ‘across mountains of make-believe’ and ‘sleep in clouds of song’. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

A Child of Books is a celebration of stories, books and reading, that you will want to read again and again.  It’s one of those books that you will find something new in each time you read it.  You might notice a line from a book that you missed the last time or note the significance of a particular line of text.  I want to take this book everywhere with me and show it to everyone I meet.  However, I also want to take the book apart and have the pages on the walls of my house and my school library to look at every day.

Oliver Jeffers’ characteristic illustrations and hand drawn text that I already love is combined with Sam’s astonishing typographical landscapes that I couldn’t get enough of.  Sam has taken excerpts from classic children’s stories and nursery rhymes, from Treasure Island to Alice and Wonderland, and shaped them into stunning creations.  There is an ocean made from castaway stories and clouds made from lullabies.

If I ever doubt why I do what I do all I need to do is open this book.  If anyone questions the validity of libraries and librarians all I need to do is put this book in their hands.  A Child of Books is my picture book of the year and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Buy this book for your collection and share it with everyone in your life.

Picture Book Nook: Anton and the Battle by Ole Konnecke

Anton and the Battle is one of those picture books that you know is going to make kids laugh just by looking at the front cover.  How can you not laugh when the two boys are swinging a cow and a cello at each other?  The cover hooks you in and you want to find out what the battle is about.

The story starts with Anton and Luke arguing about which one of them is the strongest.  Anton can lift a big stone, but Luke can lift an even bigger stone.  They keep trying to out-do each other by proving that they’re stronger or louder or braver – until they meet a ferocious puppy.

Anton and the Battle is a wonderful story about the power of the imagination and the joy of play.  Both the text and the illustrations are so simple, but really funny.   Ole has coloured his two characters but left the rest of the page white so that they and their imaginations stand out.  The white space allows the giant horn or the bombs to take center stage and draw the reader’s attention.  The illustrations will have children laughing out loud, as Anton and Luke chase after each other with giant hammers, swing lions and tigers over their heads and get stuck up trees.  The page where they are swinging lions and tigers over their heads is hilarious (just look at their faces)!  I love the twist on the story when Ole throws a puppy into the mix and even when they’re stuck up a tree, they’re still trying to out-do each other.

It’s a story with lots of anticipation that keeps children guessing.  Before you turn the page you could ask them what they think might happen next.  Even after the story is finished you could ask children to suggest other things that Anton and Luke could battle with or ways they could show they’re stronger, louder or faster than each other.  They could even draw their own Anton and Luke battle scene.

Anton and the Battle is one of Gecko Press’ first releases of 2013 and is available in libraries and bookshops now.