Posted in Graphic Novels/ Comics, Module 10

Module 10: Cardboard

Title: Cardboard

Author: Doug TenNapel

ISBN: 978-0-545-41873-7

Publisher: Scholastic, Incorporated


All Cam’s father wants is to find work so that he can buy his son the birthday present that he deserves. He hunts for construction work, but to no avail. Soon he happens upon a street stand selling cheap toys. The vendor convinces him that what his son will like best is an empty cardboard box, as long as he can follow two simple rules: Don’t come asking for more cardboard, and bring back any scraps that you don’t use. Cam’s father agrees, and brings the box home to his son. Cam and his father decide to build a boxer out of the cardboard, and work all night long to complete their project. Much to their surprise, the boxer comes alive. The next day, Cam takes his new friend outside, but the neighborhood bully gets jealous, and sprays the cardboard boxer with a hose. Cam is devastated, so his father figures out how to generate more cardboard, and the duo repairs him. When the neighborhood bully realizes that Cam can generate the cardboard, he steals the generator and creates his own monsters. The monsters quickly grow out of control, and Cam and the neighborhood bully must work together to defeat the monsters.

Ten Napel, D. (2012). Cardboard. United States: GRAPHIC.

My Impressions:

This was a decent graphic novel. I think that upper elementary readers will enjoy the illustrations, and the action of this story. Cardboard has an engaging plot, and good character development throughout the story. It is fun to examine the characters’ faces to watch how they change throughout the story. The monsters are wonderfully drawn, and really add to the novel.  I felt that the “monster battle” section was a little long, but young readers will likely enjoy it. Cam’s personal story is very compelling, and had me wondering if this family was going to be able to overcome their struggles. Cardboard has a little something for everybody, and would be an excellent addition to a classroom library.

For Use in the Library:

Use this text during a unit on characterization. Examine the characters’ actions, dialog, and, facial features to determine how they grow or change over the course of the book. Use this text during guided reading or literature circles to provide a change of pace for upper elementary readers, and to engage or motivate reluctant readers.


Cam Howerton’s out-of-work father is so broke, the best he can do for Cam’s birthday is an empty cardboard box purchased from a toy seller with two mysterious rules: return every unused scrap of cardboard and don’t ask for any more. “Worst present in the history of birthdays,” thinks Mr. Howerton, but the box becomes a project. What should father and son make out of the box? “A boxer,” Cam suggests. So, as with Rabbi Loew’s golem in sixteenth-century Prague or David Almond’s Clay, “Boxer Bill,” created from inanimate material, comes alive. Unfortunately, Marcus, the neighborhood bully, gets wind of the cardboard man, steals the scrap materials, and begins turning out a whole evil empire of cardboard monsters. He expects to lead these loyal minions, but after losing control of them he must unite with Cam and his father to defeat the massive cardboard army. The graphic novel format, with its dynamic panels and fast pacing, is a perfect vehicle for this tale. Early on, big questions are raised about what it means to be a man, what makes a good man, and what forms people’s character. Such philosophical musings give way to full-blown action that will grab the attention of graphic novel fans and video-game aficionados. A boldly imaginative and ambitious tale. dean schneider

Schneider, D. (2012). [Review of the book Cardboard, by D. TenNapel]. Horn Book Magazine, 88(4), 130. Retrieved from