Monday, May 20, 2013


by Doug TenNapel
288 pages
Late Elementary+

Cam and his dad Mike have it tough.  Cam's mom is dead, Mike can't find work even though he tries, and the best thing he can afford for Cam's birthday is a cardboard box.  Despite the weird guy that sells it to him, Mike takes the box home, and together they create a cardboard boxer they name Bill.

But everything changes when Bill comes to life.  Quirky and not quite sure to make of his new life, Bill pushes forward with enthusiasm.  Instant friends with Cam, they make the kid across the street, Marcus, jealous of the awesome (no batteries needed!) toy that Cam has.  When Marcus steels the remaining cardboard pieces to make his own creations, things start getting a little out of hand.

I liked this book a lot!  The illustrations are colorful and expressive, without being too busy or dark.  Despite the prevalence of cardboard, I'm not overwhelmed by tan- the artist finds ways to incorporate lots of colors even when cardboard takes over the world.  There is texture and motion in the pictures that drawers the reader in.

I also really like the story line.  It subtly deals with several issues such as Cam's dead mother, Mike's lack of a job, stretching money when things are thin, friendship and betrayal.  All these things are woven into the story- the reader sees them, and sees the characters dealing with them.  I think that is important- not just that the issues are present, but the the characters are interacting with these issues: Mike is trying to get work but not having success, they eat mac n cheese for dinner (frequently from implications), and they even discuss the mom a little.  It's not distant issues, but very real and involving in their lives.

One of the things I like the most about the story is the relationship between Cam and Marcus.  They start out not friendly at all, have trials to their very weak friendship, and they talk about those weaknesses.  As things that happen in the book kind of throw them together, they start seeing each other clearer, and find they need each other.  Not your typical beginning to a friendship, but kind of more realistic than some portrayals.

Overall, good book!  It's a little bigger than some graphic novels aimed at kids plus has some issues more suited to slightly older kids, so I would say late elementary and middle school.  Boys will get a kick of this book, as well as girls.  Expect them to make things with cardboard if you read it to them!  Have fun!

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