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The cardboard kingdom
2018
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  New York Times Review

Entertainment and enrichment go hand in hand in the best summer books for kids. when I was A girl, my friends and I clung to each other and even to our teachers during the June goodbyes. Nonetheless, we chanted with glee, "No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks! " We conjured lazy days unfettered from loudspeaker announcements, bells and evaluation by report card. Recalling such moments, one might be forgiven for appreciating summer children's books that demand very little - the counterparts of popsicles, inflated pool toys and hypnotic screen time. Yet deeper summertime literary pleasures, too, are one of life's great joys. These three books for young readers - all set after school's out - contain education and entertainment, nuanced instruction and unalloyed amusement. Summer books for children can and should include both. SECRET SISTERS OF THE SALTY SEA (GREENWILLOW, 232 PP., $16.99; AGES 8 TO 12), the Newbery medalist Lynne Rae Perkins's exquisite new book that includes her own pencil illustrations, offers limpid observation, deft dialogue, delicate touches of humor and a sensibility that brings to mind Emily's famous line from Thornton Wilder's "Our Town": "Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you." Perkins is a poetic sorceress whose authorial wand wafts over the pages of her book and gently probes the depths of children's souls. Her story starts with a sense of wonder: "The bottom of the sky glowed deep electric blue.... Overhead it was still velvety black, prickled with stars." Two sisters, burrowing under an unzippered sleeping bag in the back seat of their family car, are speeding off at night on a long drive to their first ocean vacation, one week long. Later in the book, Perkins builds up to an image that stops the heart. After many adventures from which both girls learn about tides and conservation, about the ebb and flow of desire, about the fact that small things compel intense interest if you pay them mind, and about how a younger sister's spunk can evoke admiration in her more accomplished sibling, the family bikes to a wildlife refuge, where injured birds of prey are healed. When a stunned peregrine falcon is brought in, Sara, the keeper, wraps the bird in a blanket 'as if it were a baby" and asks Alix, the younger sister, if she would like to hold it. The little girl feels the bird's warm heart racing against her body and speaks softly to it. On the last day of their ocean stay, Alix returns with her mother to the center and learns that the bird she held in her arms is not badly injured and can now be released into the wild. Sara asks Alix if she would like to do it. Bravely, Alix dons heavy, over-the-elbow leather gloves and takes the rapier-clawed bird, suddenly alert and eager to escape. Alix fears she cannot hold on. At the keeper's countdown and "release!," Alix raises her arms. Perkins writes: "She let go with her hands. The weight of the falcon lifted. The falcon realized he was free and raised his magnificent wings." As the child bids him goodbye, the bird of prey soars into the sky and disappears over the treetops. I see in it a stirring metaphor. Summertime, after all, bespeaks freedom. Children, liberated from classrooms and homework, are released outdoors and nourished by fresh air and sunshine. They shoot out tendrils in new directions. Summertime is when children sprout up in inches as well as in psychic dimensions for which we have no measure. The release of the falcon, previously wrapped like a baby, evokes the moment when, suddenly, a child grasps that she is growing toward freedom. Alix lets go, and the creature sails off, leaving protection and care behind, venturing forth into the unknown. Likewise, Perkins's lovely book inspires young people to do what they must do, namely, grow up. ALL SUMMER LONG (FARRAR, STRAUS & GIROUX, 172 PP., $12.99; AGES 10 TO 12), a tWOtone graphic novel by Hope Larson, spins the dial from girlhood toward adolescence. Many women can think back and recall a summer when things changed forever, a bit like that dramatic switch in Dorothy Gale's life from black and white to color; and here we have it. Bina, a tall, talented, music-loving, guitar-playing black-haired girl of 13, has a longtime best friend, short, blond, unmusical Austin, who is off to soccer camp for a month, leaving Bina at loose ends because in past summers they always played a special game together. Whereas in early childhood friendships take shape by reason of proximity, later they alter as interests diverge and new bonds form, and Larson's story tracks this painful, exhilarating process. Austin not only withdraws from Bina, he informs her toward the end of the story that he has a girlfriend from soccer camp who is "cute and awesome. And short!" But mild-mannered Bina, who has put up with the highhandedness of Austin's older sister (to whom she turns for companionship in Austin's absence), shows little jealousy. When school starts in the fall, she adaptively moves on, taking steps to create her own band. Other aspects of her life are changing as well: Bina's gay older brother, Johnny, and his husband, Deon, adopt a baby. Before she feels she's ready, Bina herself is thrust into the role of babysitter for a little boy in the neighborhood. Earlier, in my favorite moment in the novel, we see a nod toward Bina's constructive response to losing Austin in an interaction between Bina and another of her older brothers, edgy Davey, who drops in on the family unexpectedly after working as an adventure guide. He tells Bina she is lucky because "you already found your thing" - music. We understand that while friendships may change or fade, Bina, like so many young people, has the chance to stay on track during adolescence by pursuing a strong interest. This moment of fraternal wisdom illuminates Larson's novel, and her images of the siblings' affectionate embraces are among the most memorable. THE CARDBOARD KINGDOM (KNOPF, 281 PP., $20.99; ages 7 to io), also a graphic novel, reminds us that children's summer reading can be sheer entertainment. The highly saturated full-colored pages by Chad Sell, with help from several other cartoonists, including Jay Fuller, Katie Schenkel and Manuel Betancourt, present a gang of diverse neighborhood kids who, in a series of loosely connected fast-paced plots, create fantasies together. They construct sets and assume roles like Banshee, Sorceress, Gargoyle, Bully and Beast, with costumes derived from fairy tale villains and monsters, among other sources. There is plenty of excitement, aggression, competition and gender-bending. Horror vacui might seem an apt term for these frenetic pages. (Think of speech bubbles like: "GRRAR," "EEEEEEE!!!" "AWOOOOO!") Some children may delight in the action-packed episodes, even if others, who gravitate toward quieter pleasures, may feel bombarded. Still, children's tastes are in evolution, forming day by day, open to novelty. The unstructured summer months ahead are an especially good time to offer them a smorgasbord of reading options. ellen handler spitz is Honors College Professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her most recent book is "Illuminating Childhood."

  Publishers Weekly Review

In his first title for young people, cartoonist Sell offers a story that unfolds in a neighborhood where children make elaborate cardboard costumes that let them try on new personas and powers. Vijay, his older sister Shikha, and their neighbor Sophie experiment first with masks that feature fangs and horns, and their adventures draw in diverse new kids, and issues of gender, class, and culture take center stage. Jack wants to be an evil sorceress; his mother doesn't mind the gown, but rejects the cruelty. Amanda's Spanish-speaking father doesn't want her wearing a mustache ("What would they say back home?"). While the proto-capitalist Alice seems unnecessarily ruthless ("I will get my customers back... and I will crush you"), other characters are drawn with tenderness, including Miguel and Nate, who must balance traditional messages about masculinity with the attraction they feel for each other. Blocky panel artwork adds impact by flipping back and forth between what the kids envision (big monsters, epic battles) and what's actually happening (cardboard creations buckling under the onslaught of garden hoses). Imagination, these kids prove, can erase what seem like unbridgeable differences. Ages 9-12. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-A diverse group of neighborhood children use cardboard, tape, and other materials to create a pretend fantasy world. When Jack puts on his purple robe and cardboard hair, he becomes the powerful and evil Sorceress. Though Sophie's grandmother tells her that girls shouldn't be loud, Sophie feels like her true self when she transforms into the boisterous Big Banshee, a green, Hulk-like monster. And when Seth, whose parents are divorcing, dons a purple mask and cape and turns into the Gargoyle, he feels strong enough to stand up to his increasingly erratic and aggressive father. The chapters each focus on a different character and deftly build on one another. The art is bold and cartoonlike. Panels seamlessly transition between what characters look like in their makeshift costumes and how they appear in their imagination. While the tone is light, Sell and several contributors (each of whom is responsible for a different character and chapter) tackle serious issues, such as gender stereotypes, bullying, and divorce, that will resonate with kids. The children's playacting is not only fun-it also gives them a safe space to express themselves. Readers may be inspired to craft their own cardboard kingdom after finishing the book. VERDICT A must-have for middle grade collections.-Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Awkward, and All's Faire in Middle School , this graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes as they explore conflicts with friends, family, and their own identity. <br> <br> "A breath of fresh air, this tender and dynamic collection is a must-have." -- Kirkus , Starred<br> <br> Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters--and their own inner demons--on one last quest before school starts again.<br> <br> In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be--imagine that! <br> <br> The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The Cardboard Kingdom affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth.<br> <br> NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS * THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY * SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL * A TEXAS BLUEBONNET 2019-20 MASTER LIST SELECTION <br> <br> "There's room for everyone inside The Cardboard Kingdom, where friendship and imagination reign supreme." --Ingrid Law, New York Times bestselling author of Savvy <br> <br> "A timely and colorful graphic novel debut that, like its many offbeat but on-point characters, marches to the beat of its own cardboard drum." --Tim Federle, award-winning author of Better Nate Than Ever
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