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Cardboard by Doug TenNapel was on the long list for the 2013 Cybils. TenNapel returns to the theme of family bonds being strained as the catalyst for a fantasy adventure. Here, it's a widower and his son, trying to scrape a living out of what's left of the post housing boom construction work.
When it's the son's birthday, the father can only afford to buy a cardboard box but he hopes he and his son can have some making some toys from it. Of course, this being a TenNapel graphic novel, it's a magic cardboard box and it's dangerously powerful. Cam and his father's creation comes to life and he instantly becomes a welcome member of their family.
But next door, there's Marcus — the neighborhood bully, whose family situation is even more strained than Cam and his father's. Marcus is full of pent-up rage. Anger plus magic, makes for a potential disaster which Cam, his father, and eventually, Marcus, have to stop.
As with the other TenNapel graphic novels I've read, the artwork is the biggest draw. His drawings are bold, colorful and eye catching. He could easily do a wordless graphic novel. The recurring them of family is another appealing factor, as is the oft-times bizarre fantasy elements. Magic cardboard, isn't something that pops up on a regular basis. All these pieces come together to make TenNapel's books memorable and satisfying.