The understatement of the year is: I am on a graphic novel kick. I realized over the past almost two years I have collected several reader copies and my library has one heck of a middle and young adult reader graphic novel section. And I have found three publishers that publisher good books that “just happen” to be graphic novels: First Second, Graphix and Random House.
Random House last year put out four books in the graphic novel format presented as an unofficial series. These books were written by adults for the kids they were. These books were what they wanted to read. And they hoped that these were books kids today wanted to read. One of last year’s four was my least favorite book since The Dancing Cats of Applesap by Janet Taylor Lisle (and I do apologize to Ms. Lisle for this distinction, but I am sorry, I was not a fan) and the other three were, “Hey that was pretty good.” This season has four more books. Out of the three of four I have read, Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley will probably be in my Top 20 favorite books this year and might hit the Top Ten.
Based loosely on the author’s experience as an only child of divorced parents whose mother found her a couple of “stepsisters,” this fiction graphic novel is a realistic look at coming of age in a place you feel you have no business being in. Jen must not only deal with some funky chickens and their weird habits, she must deal with Walter (her mothers’ boyfriend), her mother’s deer-eaten garden (which had she listened to the locals in the first place would not have been an issue), the Farmers Market and two new “sisters” (Walter’s girls) every weekend. Typical issues happen (Jen has issues with math, she and Andy butt heads, Walter insists on calling her Jenny, even her mom seems to be against her). The insecurities we all tend to face at least once comes to light in this heavily illustrated, brightly colored, perfectly detailed book for ages 10 to 14. One could even go as young as 8 or 9 due to the fact there is “drama” but not “teen drama.”