The Cardboard Kingdom is a graphic novel by Chad Sell about the power of imagination and being yourself. The book is a collection of short stories that follows children of the cardboard kingdom, a neighbourhood where kids go on adventures and take on new personas using cardboard costumes and their own creativity. The stories show their fantasy adventures, while grounding the tales in the real life circumstances of the children. With bright, engaging artwork and entertaining antics, this is an excellent middle grade book.
While the antics and epic quests of the characters are entertaining, what make this book truly special is how the characters' real lives impact their adventures and vice versa. In particular, I appreciate how characters question gender roles and are in turn supported by parental figures. For instance, Sophie is called a loud mouth and criticized by her grandmother, but later embraces her loud and powerful persona due to the support of her mother. Jack dresses up as a sorceress saying "she's what I want to be... magical and powerful and amazing," a sentiment that receives the love and approval of Jack's mother. Another story contains a father who initially disapproves of his daughter's choice to dress like a male mad scientist. However, he changes his mind in a sweet heart to heart with her. The characters roleplay new identities and are met with gentle acceptance and support, which is beautiful.