Review of Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones
by Lucy Knisley; illus. by the author; color by Whitney Cogar
Intermediate, Middle School    RH Graphic/Random    223 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-593-12524-3    $20.99
Paper ed.  978-1-9848-9684-1    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-9686-5    $9.99

This tender graphic novel by Alex Award winner (for Relish) Knisley illuminates the challenges of finding oneself in completely new surroundings and learning to take things one step at a time. Jen’s parents have separated, and she and her mom recently moved from the city to a small farm in the country, where they run a farmers’ market stand. Jen has new chores to figure out (including taking care of chickens) and must adjust to living with her mom’s annoying boyfriend and his daughters, who visit on the weekends. One of the girls is a know-it-all who brings Jen’s ­insecurities — especially with math — to the fore. A constant through the turmoil is Jen’s notebook, in which she scribbles and muses. Notebook entries are incorporated into the art and reflect Jen’s emotions, offering depth to character and plot (revealing, for example, what is happening with Jen’s absent dad). Knisley’s images are both functional and expertly rendered, and Cogar’s muted, down-to-earth colors feel appropriate for mood and setting. Layouts (including multi-paneled pages mixed with full-page art and double-page spreads) create steady pacing, allowing moments of intimacy and the natural scenery to shine as Jen develops deeper relationships and her world expands. An author’s note (with photographs) reveals that the fictional story is based on Knisley’s childhood experiences, including her dyscalculia. This realistic and relatable story of tween growth by an established adult comics creator is sure to be popular with fans of autobiographical cartoonists such as Raina Telgemeier.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall
Elisa Gall is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Illinois.

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