Graphic Novel Review: Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland

Review: Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: January 7, 2020 by Algonquin Books
Book Description:

A laugh-out-loud funny and empowering graphic memoir about growing up and finding your voice.

Twelve-year-old Cindy has just dipped a toe into seventh-grade drama—with its complicated friendships, bullies, and cute boys—when she earns an internship as a cub reporter at a local newspaper in the early 1970s. A (rare) young female reporter takes Cindy under her wing, and Cindy soon learns not only how to write a lede, but also how to respectfully question authority, how to assert herself in a world run by men, and—as the Watergate scandal unfolds—how brave reporting and writing can topple a corrupt world leader. Searching for her own scoops, Cindy doesn’t always get it right, on paper or in real life. But whether she’s writing features about ghost hunters, falling off her bicycle and into her first crush, or navigating shifting friendships, Cindy grows wiser and more confident through every awkward and hilarious mistake.

Based on the author-illustrator’s own experiences in the early 1970’s, Cynthia L. Copeland‘s Cub follows twelve-year-old Cindy- seventh grader and aspiring writer- as she makes her way through changing friendships, school bullies, young romance, and a life-changing internship as a cub reporter for her local newspaper in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Reports have a huge responsibility, especially now. Our country is in turmoil: chaos in the White House, a senseless war, environmental crises, women having to fight for equal rights…It’s up to us to make sure everyone has the information needed to make educated decisions.

After encouragement and assistance from her much-admired English teacher, Mrs. Schulz- and after answering all of her parents’ concerns- Cindy is given the opportunity to work as a cub reporter with a young female reporter from their local newspaper, the Torrington Register. Paired with the dedicated and driven Leslie Jacobs- who soon becomes a writing and career mentor- Cindy finds multiple aspects of her life transforming in numerous ways. On the reporting side of things, Cindy gets firsthand experiences in attending board of education meetings, town baking contests, tagging along to interviews, learning more about environmental movements, the fight for women’s rights, as well as getting to write up drafts of articles. As Cindy’s experiences with Leslie and reporting activities broaden, so too do facets of her personal life. Navigating tricky moments in changing friend groups, constant run-ins with an ensemble of spiteful bullies, as well as a sudden blossoming romance with a John Denver look-alike, Cindy’s life is pretty maxed out.

My dad is very protective of me. He wants me to be safe…
But he wants my brothers to be successful.

Copeland does such a fantastic job in Cub of successfully running parallel story lines: following Cindy not only as she becomes stronger and more confidant as a cub reporter and writer, but also simultaneously as young pre-teen/teen who becomes more self-assured, more vocal, who carves out her own friend group, and tackles even more personal aspirations. It makes for even more fascinating reading due to the fact that Cub takes place in the early 1970s, with Cindy and Leslie both witnessing, experiencing, recognizing and attempting to fight back against sexist expectations and the lack of women (and diverse representation in general) in reporting and the field of journalism. As Cub draws towards its end, the thread of empowerment running through the graphic novel gets especially and wonderfully loud, and makes for a truly satisfying finale on many levels. Be sure not to miss ‘Cindy’s 1970s Sketchbook‘ at the book’s end, as well as detailed Author’s Note and Acknowledgements for an even more complete and personal look at Cindy’s story in Cub.

With starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, as well as  praise from Boston Globe and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Copeland’s graphic memoir arguably joins the ranks of thoroughly enjoyable, humorous and resonant coming-of-age graphic novels like Guts, Real Friends, Stargazing, All’s Faire in Middle School, and Be Prepared. Readers who cannot get enough of the work of creators such as Victoria Jamieson, and Raina Telgemeier will likely find much to savour, relate to, and appreciate about Copeland’s visually appealing, smart, perceptive and compelling graphic novel.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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