Cardboard Kingdom

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Meet Chad Sell video (1:26):

Activities & Resources:


Cardboard projects:

Cardboard ideas blog:

Make a model castle out of cardboard boxes:

Cardboard Costume Ideas:

Creative problem-solving:

Break students into small groups of 4-5. Have each group create a mission that the kids from the other groups can solve. Have groups exchange missions and spend time working on the mission. After each mission is complete, have groups discuss what worked and what didn’t work.

Hold your own LARP (Live Action Role Playing) session. Promote in advance and tell children that they should create a character to play during the session. Children should come in costume and are to stay in character for the duration. The librarian should also be in character and will be the King or Queen of the LARP session, making rules, setting challenges, and giving characters jobs to keep the game moving.

Learn about the Middle Ages:

Knights for Kids:

Middle Ages for Kids:

Create a play or graphic novel:

In a group of 4-5, have students rewrite the ending of a favorite fairy tale.  Students should then create a play from their new ending, assign roles, and practice.  Students can then use a device to record their play and upload their performance to an app such as SeeSaw.

As a whole group, have students brainstorm things they like to do during the summer. Then have each student write a one page story about his or her experience with the group selected activity. Have students divide into groups of 3-4 and create their own graphic novel connecting each person’s one page story. Students should use a mix of words and pictures to develop the novel.


Superhero Crafts:

MakerSpace Activities:

Make your own Cardboard Kingdom masks:

Have children create their own superhero or villain. Allow them to use items from the MakerSpaces station to create a costume. Host a superhero & villain “convention” in the library where superheroes and villains can mingle and share information about their powers and goals.

Have students bring cardboard boxes and other items from home. Collect cardboard and other craft donations from patrons. Invite students to create their own “Cardboard Kingdom” using the items and play like the kids in the story.

Become a mad scientist. Draw out an alteration you would make to your body to make it bigger, better, or more entertaining. Use cardboard and other makerspace materials to bring your design to life.

Discussion Questions:

What is your favorite activity for the summer enjoyment? Why did you select this activity?

Do siblings make it easier to play pretend? Why?

What would be your Cardboard Kingdom alter ego? Describe what your character would look like and why you would choose this character.

If you were given a stack of cardboard, scissors, tape, and markers, what would you create? Why?

Each character in the story deals with an obstacle. Choose a character and tell what advice you have for that person.

Do you think weapons or potions are more useful when fighting evil? Why?

Do you think kids can be superheroes? Explain the reasons for your answer.

Would you rather be a character who is medieval like the Knight and the Sorceress or modern like the Robot and the Mad Scientist? Why?

Which type of character most appeals to you — a hero or a villain? Explain your answer.

In the story, many of the kids choose to become a character who is different from their own personality. Why do you think they would choose to do so?

How would you explain your desire to be different to your parents?

What would you do or say to help a friend who was having a hard time being himself or herself?

What game would you play with your friends in the Cardboard Kingdom? Explain the rules of the game.

With which Cardboard Kingdom character would you choose to be friends? Why?

If you lived in medieval times, what convenience would you miss most? Explain.

Imagine living in the future where robots ruled. What would change in your life? Why?

If you were a superhero or villain, what one power would you have? Explain.

It can be difficult to join a new group. What would you do if someone was trying to join your group of friends? Explain the reasons for your behavior.

If you were to create your own land and kingdom, what would be the theme? Why?

What is one bucket list item you would like to scratch off your list by the last day of summer? Explain your reason for choosing that activity.  

Book Talk Teasers:

Read the readers theatre from the TBA resources webpage.

Make your own “costume” out of cardboard. Walk in to the room in character (add a voice as you like) and ask the group of students to name their favorite superhero or villain. Introduce your character (either hero or villain) and ask the students if they would like to hear the story of a group of superheroes and villains.

Read Alikes:

Graphic Novels

Bianco, Guillame. Ernest & Rebecca.Follows the adventures of Rebecca, a six-year-old with a weakened immune system, and her best friend Ernest, a microbe. (NoveList K-8)

Emerson, Marcus. Recess warriors. Recess is ready to rumble in this exciting graphic novel, where heroes and villains face off in epic battles on the playground! (NoveList K-8)

Gardner, Whitney. Fake blood. A laugh-out-loud, coming-of-age graphic novel depicts a middle school misfit who resolves to win the heart of his vampire-aficionado crush only to discover that she is actually a vampire slayer. (NoveList K-8)

Holm, Jennifer L. Babymouse. An imaginative mouse dreams of being queen of the world, but will settle for an invitation to the most popular girl’s slumber party. (NoveList K-8)

TenNapel, Doug. Cardboard. After Cam’s father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday, they fashion it into a man that comes to life, but things spin out of control when a bully steals a scrap of the cardboard to create creatures that disobey his orders and multiply into an army. (NoveList Plus)


Gownley, Jimmy. What makes you happy. Nine-year-old Amelia McBride is curious about her Aunt Tanner’s fame as a former rock star, devoted to her friend Reggie and his superhero club, goes to a funeral, and thinks about life and love. (NoveList K-8)

Nordling, Lee. SheHeWe: a graphic novel.Tells the story of a boy and girl and games they play, separately and together, through clever wordless comics. (NoveList K-8)

Telgemeier, Raina. Kristy’s great idea: a graphic novel. Follows the adventures of Kristy and the other members of the Baby-sitters Club as they deal with crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who do not always tell the truth. A graphic novel based on the 1988 book by the same name. (NoveList K-8)


Parkinson, Siobhan. Miraculous Miranda. Miranda has a Big Imagination, and always wins Word of the Day at school. Listening to her teacher’s encouragement, she creates a world called Magnanimous and, to her astonishment, the things she writes begin to come true. When her sister Gemma is taken into the hospital, Miranda hopes that her writing will produce a miracle for her sister. But what is the truth? Does writing have the power Miranda believes? (NoveList K-8)

Tra, Frank. Masterpiece Robot. This story neatly celebrates the everyday life experiences of a diverse family and the magic of togetherness in the face of all kinds of adventure (Kirkus Reviews)


Sell, Chad. The Cardboard Kingdom. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2018.


The Cardboard Kingdom. (Starred)

Sell, Chad (author). Illustrated by the author.

June 2018. 288p. Knopf, $18.99 (9781524719371); Knopf, paper, $12.99 (9781524719388). Grades 3-6. 741.5.

REVIEW. First published May 15, 2018 (Booklist).

In the Cardboard Kingdom, every kid can be whomever he or she wants to be! Evil or good, a superhero or a scientist, everyone is welcome among this gang of imaginative neighborhood friends. In Sell’s episodic, short comics, each of the kids gets a chance to tell his or her story. Most are fairly standard middle-grade fare, such as a chapter about the bully who learns to play nice with others, but The Cardboard Kingdom really shines in its dissection of traditional gender roles: within the first few pages, readers learn that the Sorceress is a boy playing in high heels and robes, while the Mad Scientist is a girl who likes to wear a mustache. Though the kids rarely question these choices and often take on different personas, the parents at times are less accepting, and it’s in these moments that Sell’s themes of inclusivity and self-acceptance are truly driven home. Sell’s playful, expressive, and boldly colored artwork always keeps the mood fun, quickly shifting between the real world and the kids’ imagined scenes in the Cardboard Kingdom. The blocky figures have a great cartoon quality, and, with a wide range of skin tones, genders, and family types, every kid reading will have someone to relate to. This easy-reading story offers—in a fun, engaging package—a meaningful commentary on the importance of childhood games. — Peter Blenski

Used with the permission of Booklist

School Library Journal (April 1, 2018) 

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.áVERDICTáA 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.  

Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal ©2018