Stepping Stones

Random/Graphic. May 2020. 224p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780593125243; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781984896841.
Gr 4-7–City girl Jen is overwhelmed. Following her parents’ divorce, her mother uproots them to the country to live on a small farm. Instead of visiting comic book shops and eating Chinese food, Jen is struggling to make change at the family farm stand, taking care of the chickens, and learning to live with her mom’s bossy, know-it-all boyfriend, Walter, and his daughters, Andy and Reese. Everyone in Jen’s new household seems confident and perfect, especially Andy, who somehow outshines Jen at every turn. Inspired by the author’s own childhood, Knisley’s first middle grade graphic novel soars. She perceptively portrays the highs and lows of being a preteen, from the frustration of living with the fallout of adults’ decisions to the joy of building new families. Her young characters are effectively and sympathetically depicted; all have individual talents and personalities and learn to work together despite their differences. However, the adults, particularly Walter, remain clueless and insensitive—an issue that will hopefully be addressed in future volumes (this title is the first of three interconnected books). The art is lively and colorful with beautifully detailed backgrounds. Jen frequently expresses her angst through charming, stick-figure artwork, which, along with Knisley’s spot-on facial expressions, emphasizes the drama of blended family.
VERDICT This candid, heartwarming look at a child grappling with major changes will resonate with fans of Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova and anyone trying to find their place.

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