By Cynthia L. Copeland
Published on: January 7, 2020
Cub, a graphic novel memoir, is a refreshing look at what it was like to grow up as a female in the school year of 1972 as we get to watch a young middle-grader navigate through friendships, boys, job/future opportunities, bullies, and more.
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.
There is so much to love about this graphic novel. Admittingly, I went into it rather skeptically. I’m not a big fan of the 70s decade, although it did give us Star Wars, and I question my ability to properly evaluate graphic novels. But only a page or two in and I was hooked by the drawings, humor, and main character.
Middle school life is tough. Cub starts out showing us what Cindy’s life is like at both home and school, but mostly school or otherwise known as the “Wild Kingdom,” introducing us to the bullies (and ways to avoid them), her best friend Katie, and then also her favorite teacher, Mrs. Schulz who teaches English. It is this teacher who gives Cindy the idea that she could one day become a writer and hooks her up with a local female newspaper reporter.
Soon, the big day arrives for her first assignment with the Leslie, the female newspaper writer, and off they go to The Board of Education’s Finance Subcommittee meeting. (Boy, that sounds like fun.) Cindy takes notes even though she has no idea what any of it means and feels a little down. But Leslie is great and gives her encouragement by providing a story about how Bob Woodward of the Washington Post started out.
As year progresses, Leslie and Cindy continue to go on more and more varying assignments and you can see Cindy’s enjoyment and confidence continue to grow as well. But at the same time, Cub also shows what happens in between the assignments as Cindy works through changing friendships and even boys! She makes mistakes, learns new things about herself and others and continues to evolve.
I was impressed by how Cub covers so many topics so very well, including:
- Difference between what stories female reporters were assigned to versus what male reporters were assigned to.
- 1970 current events including the Vietnam war, ERA Amendment, Nixon Watergate and presidential election.
- Difference in how fathers discussed future jobs with their sons as compared to their daughters.
- Cindy’s growing interest and encouragement in a variety of subjects that gave her growing confidence.
- How friendships grew and changed in the middle grade years.
If I ever get a chance to go back and relive a period of my life, it won’t be middle school and I would wager that this is true for most of us. It is that period of your life when you begin to start growing up emotionally, mentally, physically, and intellectually and it is tough. Cub encompasses many of these middle school moments so well in this graphic novel bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion.
Rating: 5 stars
Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for letting me be part of this blog tour and for the opportunity to provide an honest review.