Review Detail

Kids Nonfiction 356
What Life Was Like
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Cindy finds that middle school in the early 1970s is fairly stressful-- all the cool girls are wearing elephant bells and blue eyeshadow, but her parents are more conservative and make her wear longer dresses and sensible shoes. She also finds that they encourage her brothers more than they encourage her. She has one really good friend, but that friend starts hanging out with the cool, mean girls. On the bright side, she finds a boy in her class with whom she has a lot in common, and the two hang out and talk a lot. Also, she talks to her English teacher about writing, and her teacher connects her to a local newspaper reporter, a woman, who brings Cindy along to various events and helps her write articles, one of which is published in the newspaper. Cindy manages to make new friends, keeps up with writing as well as photography, and manages to gain the support of her parents for her endeavors.
Good Points
The details of school, fashion, home life, and sociopolitical events are all covered in an engaging and interesting way. The fact that this is a graphic novel actually helps tremendously with the understanding of what the world looked like at this point in history. I loved the reported with the VW Beetle, and yes, Cindy's parents probably would have been totally fine with her tagging along. This was also rather poignant-- in the 1970s, writing was still something that one could use for a career. I am always worried for journalism majors now!

Young readers will not only gain an understanding of the historical period, but relate to Cindy's standard tween issues of school, friends, and boys. Fitting in is a huge concern at this age, and Cindy's difficulties are still ones with which young people struggle.

This was definitely a white, middle class story, but also a great feminist one. Like Holms' Sunny books, this one made me ridiculously happy, since it covers a period of time during my own childhood. Will probably purchase at least two copies. I do sort of wish the cover were avocado green, though. Or maybe purple. Or orange. Better if it were a plaid of all three-- that would have captured the colors of the time! I was a little surprised that girls wore jeans to school; we weren't allowed until 1976.

Since the one hundredth anniversary of women's right to vote is coming up, start collecting books on that topic, and start with the fantastic Cub.
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