Book Review: Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland


A new year means new books, and I’m kicking off 2020 with a stack that I can’t wait to tackle. I have a combination of middle grade reads, picture books, and memoirs. So far, 2020 reading has gotten off to a great start with Cynthia L. Copeland’s first graphic novel for kids, Cub.

Cub takes us back to 1972 and introduces readers to seventh grader Cindy. Cindy faces the same struggles of middle school kids today – trying to find her own voice, navigating the treacherous waters of popularity and cliques, and doing her best to understand what is going on in the turbulent world of politics. Cindy also deals with rampant sexism that was common in the 1970’s. One moment in particular that stayed with me was when Cindy realized that her dad wanted her brothers to be successful while he was only concerned about Cindy being safe. Trying new things and taking risks was something typically reserved for boys. So when Cindy gets the opportunity to be a cub reporter and shadow a real reporter, her parents raise plenty of concerns. But in the end, they approve and Cindy gets thrust into the exciting world of journalism.

I think Cub is an excellent portrayal of the awkwardness of being a tween and will be relatable to kids today even though it’s set in the 1970’s. After all, times may change but people really don’t. It was a much simpler time in some ways, when kids actually played outside and had no internet or social media, but the social struggles of bullying and acceptance then are the same kids know now, even if they look a little different. I really liked the way Copeland labeled the bullies as the “predators” while Cindy and her friends were the “prey.” It’s probably the most accurate descriptions of bullying I’ve ever read. Bullies truly are predators, always on the hunt for someone to put down in order to push themselves up.

What really struck me while reading was how many issues Cindy encountered as a cub reporter that are still being debated and fought for today. Nearly fifty years later, we are still fighting to get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified, we are still fighting to implement laws to keep our environment and planet safe, and still fighting to keep a free press. Sure, there have been advances made, but it often feels like one step forward, two steps back, which is why I think Cub could serve as a good motivator for young people to become informed and take action.

The graphics in Cub were exceptional. The story opens in fall 1972 with yellow-oranges and reds splashing across the page as Cindy splashes through a puddle on her bike. For me, an entire childhood of memories was captured in that single illustration. I loved the bright ‘70’s style colors and designs featured throughout the book. I also loved the inclusion of Cindy’s articles as a cub reporter with her mentor, Leslie’s, notes on them to point out how Cindy could improve her writing. Not only does it help the reader understand how Cindy grew as a writer, but these tips could prove helpful to other aspiring writers too.

All in all, I really enjoyed Cub and recommend it for tweens as well as those who grew up in the ‘70’s like Copeland and would like to take a stroll down memory lane.

Cub is available now! The publisher recommends this book for ages 8 to 12. For updates on Cub and other great books for young readers, follow the publisher on Twitter @AlgonquinYR

I received an early review copy from Algonquin Young Readers. All opinions are my own.

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