Cardboardia Vol 1: The Other Side Of The Box by Richard Fairgray and Lucy Campagnolo

This delightful adventure follows four young friends (or three young friends and one pesky younger sister, according to at least one of our foursome) as they’re drawn into the strange and wonderful realm of Cardboardia, there to serve as heroes or villains, depending on whom you ask.

If you ask our four protagonists, ofc, they’ll all claim to land firmly on the hero side, even as they all have very different personalities and ways of coping with their lives back in the real world. Pokey Stilton is the youngest, the pesky little sister to Mac, the quiet, troubled one who may have been the very first to get a glimpse into what Cardboardia has to offer and why. Pokey’s certainly the most eager explorer of this odd new place, after getting separated from the responsible, if hardly straitlaced enough for her conservative parents, Maisie. The fourth member of their group is the even-keeled Bird, whose calm temperament comes from a lifetime of dealing with his own rambunctious siblings.

Mac, Bird and Maisie are all classmates who are planning a sleepover that Pokey also desperately wants to attend, but when Pokey and Maisie accidentally stumble into Cardboardia while at school one day, all thoughts of sleepovers are banished from their minds. When an accident shoves Maisie back into the real world without Pokey, Maisie must recruit the boys to help her rescue the younger girl. Weirdly, everyone in Cardboardia keeps staring at the trio as they begin their search for Pokey, and they soon discover why. Apparently, they’re on a Most Wanted list. But whose list is this and why have they deemed the kids public enemies?

I can see why this immersive first volume ends where it does, having set the stage for our foursome’s adventures through a land of cardboard, but it still feels a little incomplete, with too many questions left unanswered. That said, I’m definitely looking forward to getting those questions answered in future installments, as these characters are bright and funny, and their quest and circumstances original and intriguing so far. I adored Richard Fairgray’s witty art and colors, which bring a surprising amount of life and nuance to what’s essentially brown cardboard (tho I still don’t understand what cardboard water is meant to feel like.) The little jokes with the posters and store names in the backgrounds are such fun too!

Lucy Campagnolo’s dialog is surprisingly brisk and twisty, with some lovely surprises as the story unfolds. I just wish there’d been another issue/chapter included here, tho I can see where that might not work out in the series layout as a whole. Regardless, this was a very fun introduction to a new children’s graphic novel series that doesn’t shy away from heavier issues while telling its intriguing story. I can’t wait to find out more about Cardboardia and follow along on our heroes’ adventures!

Cardboardia Vol 1: The Other Side Of The Box by Richard Fairgray and Lucy Campagnolo was published September 7 2021 by Pixel+ink and is available from all good booksellers, including

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