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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Living cardboard and arthurian robots; Two middle grades graphic novels

Ten Napel, Doug  Cardboard  New York:  Graphix,

Mike has lost his job as a carpenter because of the economy.  He can't afford to even buy his son Cam a Christams present.  When he meets an odd salesman who sells him a cardboard box for 78 cents, Mike doesn't expect that when Cam builds a sculpture of a boxer from the cardboard, that the boxer will come to life.  Nor does he suspect that the creepy neighborhood bully will steal the cardboard, nor that the bully's cardboard creations will replicate and threaten to take over the neighborhood and perhaps the world.  Mike also is oblivious to the fact that the woman who lives next door has seen how much Mike misses his dead wife, and that the woman next door kind of likes him.  It is an exciting and heartwarming tale that will remind readers of the sorcerer's apprentice and other similar folktales.  The pictures can get a little overly cartoony at times, but do a great job of conveying both the joy and the horror of this story. 

This one is well suited for fourth graders and older.  Boys might particularly take to it.  I highly recommend it for your classroom library.

Cammuso, Frank.  (2009) Knights of the Lunch Table:  The Dragon Players  New York:  Scholastic.

Artie King goes to a school where his teacher is named Merlyn, the lunch ladies bear an uncanny resemblance to Macbeth's witches, and the school's mascot is a dragon.  In spite of these name connections to the Arthurian legends, the story doesn't really reflect the King Arthur stories.  Through a series of hijinks, Artie and his friends drop a bowling ball on the crabby teachers car and in order to pay her back, they need to win a battle robot contest.  They trade an action figure to an older kid in return for a universal remote that will give them an unfair advantage over their opponents, but then Artie decides not to use it. 

The style of drawing works will with the slapstick comedy that makes up about half of the book.  It is not an amazing story, but it is entertaining and might be a good way to keep third through sixth graders occupied for a while.  Interestingly, there are several characters with darker-complexions in this story, but nothing in terms of cultural diversity.

 I wouldn't put it on the top of my list, but I wouldn't put it on the bottom either. 

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