In the fall of 1972, Cindy Copeland sees nature’s game of predator versus prey playing out in the halls of Litchfield Junior High School.
Donning long, Amish-like dresses and fitted with braces, she’s certain of her destiny as prey, subject to the mean girls that sit at the predators’ table. Instead, her favorite English teacher arranges for her to work with a local newspaper journalist as a “cub reporter.” Her new mentor is a young, hip reporter who drives a VW Beetle and wears bellbottoms. Meanwhile, Cindy’s best friend starts hanging out at the predators' table, leaving the protagonist for the first time without her childhood BFF. As Cindy becomes a more adept reporter, her confidence grows and she develops new friendships; she even acquires her first boyfriend. News assignments are followed by examples of rough drafts with corrections and notes showing the editorial process. As a cub reporter, Cindy is exposed to contemporaneous issues: the 1972 presidential election campaign, Earth Day, and Connecticut’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Copeland’s first graphic novel for kids successfully integrates the right balance of coming-of-age issues into those arising from her early-’70s setting; many of the latter are eerily similar to those that the country is still experiencing. Cindy is white; one of her new friends is one of their school’s few students of color.
This tale of middle-grade angst and self-consciousness is laced with humor and nostalgia. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)