Shelton families' recycled cardboard creations brighten library

SHELTON — Some local families took quite an imaginative approach to recycling cardboard – and Plumb Memorial Library’s Children’s Department is better looking for it. 

From a dragon to a drum set, a Ferris wheel to the Grinch stealing a Christmas tree, families used cardboard — left over as part of the library’s ongoing renovation — to participate in the library’s first cardboard challenge, inspired in part by Shelton author Chad Sell’s "Cardboard Kingdom." 

“These are amazing. I’m totally blown away,” said Maura Gualtiere, Plumb Memorial Library children’s librarian, as she pointed out the eight submitted cardboard creations displayed throughout the Children’s Department. 

“I’m very touched that they would spend so much effort doing this in such a busy time in their lives. These are incredible,” she said. “The effort and imagination that went into each one is amazing.” 

Plumb Memorial Library’s adult reference department – located in the main section of the building – has been under renovation since March. Part of the renovation required all the books be boxed and moved to the meeting room just off the Children’s Department. 

When the books were recently unpacked and placed back on the shelves, Stokes said that left some 600 cardboard boxes that needed to be recycled. 

The idea of a cardboard challenge stemmed from a children's graphic novel series called "The Cardboard Kingdom" by Shelton author Chad Sell, and the fact that Plumb had many empty cardboard boxes. 

“(Gualtiere) thought she could turn this into a recycling project,” director Joan Stokes said. “At the same time, there is an author in Shelton who wrote graphic novels incorporating this theme of recycled boxes. It was the marriage of the two, and the kids just ran with it. 

“I love the work they did,” Stokes added. 

The program was open to any family with children, and the idea was for them to create something imaginative from two collapsed library-issued cardboard boxes plus recycled materials from their homes. The one major rule was the family's children had to have participated in the making of the creation. All were submitted by early December. 

"I wanted to do this, to create a nice opportunity for families to spend time together, to get off your computer, to get off the internet and do something with your hands, as a family,” Gualtiere said. 

Eight groups — mainly families — participated, with children as young as 3 to teenagers. One group was spearheaded by local resident Julie DeScheen, who attends programs at the Kennedy Center. She got members of her group, T2E, to create a gingerbread house. 

Library staff, and Sell himself, have voted for the most imaginative creation, and the results will be released next month. Gualtiere said the vote was a difficult one, with so many quality creations. 

Sell, a frequent visitor to the library, said he was thrilled to see cardboard design challenge. 

"Seeing my own work spark the creativity of kids and their families is one of the biggest highlights of being an author,” said Sell, also author of "The Cardboard Kingdom #2, Roar of the Beast" and another children’s book series, "Doodleville!," a dark fairytale adventure set in Chicago. 

“I think all of the cardboard contest entries were fantastic, and it was such a joy to see all of them displayed at the library,” Sell said. “I was overwhelmed and delighted by the incredible creativity from all the families that participated.” 

Sell’s "Cardboard Kingdom" was a 2021 Nutmeg Award nominee. 

"My original idea for the Cardboard Kingdom was inspired by my own childhood growing up in a small town where a lot of my best friends lived on the same block as me, and we would all play games in each other's backyards,” Sell said. 

“I love seeing kids use their imaginations together, inventing worlds of make believe in cooperative ways,” Sell added. “I see 'The Cardboard Kingdom' as a safe place for everyone to have adventures together and escape the challenges and complexities of everyday life.”