Summary: Stepping Stones (Peapod Farm #1)
Stepping Stones is the first in the PeaPod Farm graphic novel series by Lucy Knisley. It features young Jen, whose mother moves her from the city to a farm to live with her mother’s new boyfriend, Walter and help him care for his farm. At the farm, Jen is saddled with chores like caring for chickens and selling at the farmer’s market. Her mother’s boyfriend, Walter is infuriating and dismissive of Jen’s feelings. Things get worse when Walter’s daughters Andy and Reese come to the farm on weekends. The girls are alright, but Andy seems to be a know-it-all while Reese won’t stop whining. Can Jen make a life at Peapod Farm?
This was a well-done graphic novel. The illustrations were beautiful and the plot was engrossing. I loved how realistic the story and characters were and I truly felt for Jen as she dealt with a change she had no control over. Farm life isn’t entirely horrible if you like animals, but coming from city living as a tween, I understand how much of a shock it can be.
Lots of reviewers have already mentioned how awful Walter is to Jen and I agree. However, I do see the value of including him as a character because some adults are insensitive, grouchy, and difficult, even though they have no ill intentions. It was nice to see a real character without the need for a sudden change of heart or “makeover” of sorts.
I liked seeing Jen and Andy’s relationship grow over time and seeing both girls find their rhythm. The farmer’s market scenes were intriguing and I loved the natural disagreements and the way Jen tries to stand up for herself — as well as the support her mom provides. Jen struggles with calculations, which makes manning the cash register challenging (Knisley mentions that she has dyscalculia).
Overall: Stepping Stones (Peapod Farm #1)
Stepping Stones is an engaging, wholesome, true-to-life middle grade graphic novel about dealing with life changes. Set on a farm with a protagonist who’s navigating her parents’ divorce, a move from city to country, and a newly blending family, this story is rich with relatable circumstances. I loved the budding sisterhood and appeal of rural living. Kids who love graphic novels and stories about overcoming tough circumstances will enjoy this one.