4.3 30
by Joan Bauer

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Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules…  See more details below


Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules of the Road, the central story is of a journey: Ivy hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo-and to find her own destiny as well. Persistent, mouthy, and good, Ivy is an admirable heroine who will be familiar to Bauer fans; older female friends (including Tib, Aunt Jo, and wilderness expert Mountain Mama) are equally attractive if given to message-laden dialogue. In fact, the book could have used less preaching and more story overall, but Ivy is such a darned fine gal that readers will be glad to make her acquaintance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this compelling, though ultimately uneven outing, Bauer (Rules of the Road) travels to a literal and emotional backwater, navigating the strong ties that bind-and have the potential to choke-a proud but dysfunctional family. For generations, the Breedloves have been respected lawyers in the community, and it's been expected-nearly demanded-that 16-year-old Ivy will follow in their footsteps. But Ivy feels driven to become a historian and, as her first major project, she undertakes the task of compiling the Breedlove genealogy. As the family gathers for the holidays, Ivy's time-saving Aunt Fiona (she has her own TV show, It's About Time) skims through the family history with a video camera. But Ivy determines that, to make the family tree complete, she must locate long-lost Aunt Josephine, her father's rebellious sister. Her search leads her to the Adirondacks, where she comes face-to-face with not only Josephine, but Ivy's own fears about life as a Breedlove. In the best passages, Bauer's characters crackle with eccentricity and exhibit glimmers of intense emotion. Mountaineering fans will also thrill at the wintry, rugged scenery. But in the end, readers may feel Ivy's adventure-and the extreme avenues taken by Josephine-to be too far-fetched. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA - Maura Bresnahan
Sixteen-year-old Ivy Breedlove is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. For generations the Breedloves have had illustrious careers as lawyers, judges, and law professors. Ivy, raised by her lawyer father since her mother's death from cancer when Ivy was six, knows that her calling is the study of the past. Bauer's story opens the day after Christmas at the Breedlove family's homestead in the Adirondack Mountains in New York where the clan has gathered for the holidays. Ivy has taken over the compilation of the family history. When she learns that her father's sister, long estranged from the family, may be living a hermit-like existence high in a mountain cabin, she is determined to make contact with her aunt. With the help of Mountain Mama, a wilderness guide writing a self-help New Age novel, Ivy travels through the snow-covered terrain to her aunt's refuge. Both the journey and the time she spends with her Aunt Jo give Ivy the strength to carve out her own place in the Breedlove family and communicate more openly with her father. Bauer once again provides readers with an eminently likeable heroine with whom they will quickly identify. Ivy's quest to be herself, not what other people expect of her, is one many adolescents share. All the reader's senses are brought alive in the scenes set in the mountain wilderness. As in her other novels, Bauer brings a strong affiliation with the land to this work. The setting's geography is lovingly detailed and one cannot help but feel one is traveling to the "backwater" with Ivy in search of history, and ultimately hope. Mountain Mama's sign says it all: "You are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Don't just stand there--come on in." VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 UpDuring a family reunion at Plum Lake, NY, at the beginning of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, teenager Ivy Breedlove feels overwhelmed by the aggressive energy pouring forth from her relatives. Because she doesnt want to follow the family tradition of becoming a lawyer and prefers quiet pastimes such as reading and genealogy, they are somewhat contemptuous of her, remarking that she reminds them of crazy, mysterious Aunt Josephine, who disappeared years ago. Upset that Aunt Fiona thinks that family history can be suitably reported on a quickly produced videotape and totally leaving out Josephine, Ivy embarks on a search for the missing woman. Following this quest into the mountains leads Ivy to engage the climbing talents of the physically powerful, worldly wise, and somehow engaging Mountain Mama. Through blisters, storms, collapsed shelter, and shifting lake ice, Ivy struggles to reunite her family and secure her own place within it. Bauer brings together seemingly disparate plot elements and makes them work beautifully. Readers will feel an immediate rapport with Ivy, and they will come to understand, admire, and learn from Mountain Mama and Josephine. Rich with engaging characters, a light love interest, and dramatic tension in a well-paced plot, this is another great read from Bauer.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bauer (Rules of the Road, 1998, etc.) catalogs the benefits of staying connected to the past in this exuberant, melodramatic tale of self-discovery. Although many of her relatives are lawyers, and her father has repeatedly and emphatically asserted that the Breedloves are, have always been, and always will be lawyers, Ivy discovers a notable exception: Aunt Josephine is a strange, reclusive duck who hasn't been seen in years. Determined to get Jo's story for a family history she is compiling for a great-aunt's 80th birthday, Ivy ventures out to the remote Adirondacks cabin where her aunt lives in solitude, surrounded by books, woodcarvings, and songbirds that perch on her shoulders. Interviewing Jo, Ivy not only gets some surprising news about her Type-A father, but finds validation for her own maverick yen to be a historian. The visit turns into an adventure when, in the midst of a winter storm, a falling tree shatters both the cabin and Jo's leg, leading to a wild, desperate run for help, followed by a funny, touching family reunion. Bauer tucks a budding romance between Ivy and a ranger-in-training into the triumphant finale, and in the contentious, gregarious Breedloves celebrates the similarities and differences that bind families. If it's all just a little larger than life, that only adds to the entertainment. (Fiction. 11-15)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
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Sales rank:
810L (what's this?)
File size:
303 KB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

July 12, 1951 - "I was born at eleven A.M., a most reasonable time, my mother often said, and when the nurse put me in my mother's arms for the first time I had both a nasty case of the hiccups and no discernible forehead (it's since grown in). I've always believed in comic entrances.

"As I grew up in River Forest, Illinois in the 1950's I seem to remember an early fascination with things that were funny. I thought that people who could make other people laugh were terribly fortunate. While my friends made their career plans, declaring they would become doctors, nurses, and lawyers, inwardly, I knew that I wanted to be involved somehow in comedy. This, however, was a difficult concept to get across in first grade. But I had a mother with a great comic sense (she was a high school English teacher) and a grandmother who was a funny professional storytellerso I figured the right genes were in there somewhere, although I didn't always laugh at what my friends laughed at and they rarely giggled at my jokes. That, and the fact that I was overweight and very tall, all made me feel quite different when I was growing upa bit like a water buffalo at a tea party.

"My grandmother, who I called Nana, had the biggest influence on me creatively. She taught me the importance of stories and laughter. She never said, 'Now I'm going to tell you a funny story', she'd just tell a story, and the humor would naturally flow from it because of who she was and how she and her characters saw the world. She showed me the difference between derisive laughter that hurts others and laughter that comes from the heart. She showed me, too, that stories help us understand ourselves at a deep level. She was a keen observer of people.

"I kept a diary as a child, was always penning stories and poems. I played the flute heartily, taught myself the guitar, and wrote folk songs. For years I wanted to be a comedienne, then a comedy writer. I was a voracious reader, too, and can still remember the dark wood and the green leather chairs of the River Forest Public Library, can hear my shoes tapping on the stairs going down to the children's room, can feel my fingers sliding across rows and rows of books, looking through the card catalogues that seemed to house everything that anyone would ever need to know about in the entire world. My parents divorced when I was eight years old, and I was devastated at the loss of my father. I pull from that memory regularly as a writer. Every book I have written so far has dealt with complex father issues of one kind or another. My father was an alcoholic and the pain of that was a shadow that followed me for years. I attempted to address that pain in Rules of the Road. It was a very healing book for me. I didn't understand it at the time, but I was living out the theme that I try to carry into all of my writing: adversity, if we let it, will make us stronger.

"In my twenties, I had a successful career in sales and advertising with the Chicago Tribune, McGraw-Hill, and Parade Magazine. I met my husband Evan, a computer engineer, while I was on vacation. Our courtship was simple. He asked me to dance; I said no. We got married five months later in August, 1981. But I was not happy in advertising sales, and I had a few ulcers to prove it. With Evan's loving support, I decided to try my hand at professional writing. I wish I could say that everything started falling into place, but it was a slow, slow buildwriting newspaper and magazine articles for not much money. My daughter Jean was born in July of 82. She had the soul of a writer even as a baby. I can remember sitting at my typewriter (I didn't have a computer back then) writing away with Jean on a blanket on the floor next to me. If my writing was bad that day, I'd tear that page out of the typewriter and hand it to her. 'Bad paper,' I'd say and Jean would rip the paper in shreds with her little hands.

"I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It's like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I'm working on a book and laughing while I'm writing. Then I know I've got something."

Joan's first novel, Squashed, won the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Five novels for young adult readers have followed: Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road (LA Times Book Prize and Golden Kite), Backwater and Hope was Here (Newbery Honor Medal).

Joan lives in Darien, CT with her husband and daughter.

Copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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Backwater 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book for anybody of any age. It has good lessons, AMAZING characters, and the storyline is so good that its hard to put down. Definitely read this boook! Im serious!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome i loved it. it made me cry because i really felt connected to ivy and jo. BUY THIS BOOK IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maranna More than 1 year ago
The Main character in Backwater, Ivy Breedlove is on a mission to find information on her family tree. In order for her to complete this she needs to find her aunt Josephine, who left the family years before. For Ivy to find her aunt she needs to go on a hike in the woods to Josephine’s cabin. When her and the tourist guide get to Josephine’s cabin Ivy convinces her to let her stay for two days so she can ask her questions about her life. On the night before Ivy’s last day with aunt Josephine, a bad winter storm comes and causes a tragedy to happen to Ivy and Aunt Josephine. I would recommend Backwater because of the way it grabs your attention from the very beginning of the story. The moral of the story is to be who you want to be, and not what other people are influencing you to be. The suspense in the book will keep you reading until you finish the book.
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Annagurl More than 1 year ago
This book is one that I will always read over and over. It has great characters and a wonderful plot. Deffinetly one to help find yourself with. Joan Bauer's books are incredible. Read it! Read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first picked this up in the bookstore, and for the first 30 pages, I was hooked. This portion contained several great quotes without being too preachy. I found myself drawn into the story of a teenage girl who doesn't fit in with her family. In particular, I felt that the relationship between strong-minded Mr. Breedlove and the quietly convicted Ivy was well-drawn. Around the time of Ivy's journey, however, the novel weakened. I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief that a woman could tame wild birds and build a cabin all on her own. Also, as much as I liked the character of Mountain Mama, she seemed to just spout platitudes all the time, and she never made one mistake. A flaw in character or judgement would've made her more human. Even worse, several aspects of Ivy's story were abandoned. I wanted to see more interaction between her and her father and Egan, as these were two of her strongest relationships. Excerpts of her history project would've made the plot seem more real. I think Ivy could've experienced her revelation in other more, believable ways. For example, what if she had caught her aunt bringing the wreaths to the cemetery? While this novel began with great potential, several relationships were not fully developped in the book. A little editing and revision could've gone a long way...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was heart warming in every way. The emotional parts were very sad and ....the book was awesome.I recommend this book to every one who is into mild adventure and standing up to people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is an awesome book. Actually, that's mostly because of how well I relate to it. I love to be alone and it's nice to read about someone else like that. If you don't like it, I think it's because you just don't get it. But when you understand, Backwater is an awesome book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a good light read. It kept me interested in what was about to happen and the secrets that Aunt Josephine held. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in something riveting yet not too emotional. I've become a Joan Bauer fan by reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think that this book had a good story line or ended well. It sort of seemed as if the snow storm and the cabin damage was like Bauer's way to attempt to save the story....better luck next time, Joan!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, not only because it had a good and captivating plot, but also because of many great quotes and hidden messages. It's a really great book about finding the missing piece, dealing with your surroundings, and finding inner strength. Backwater is a great book and I can't wait to read more of this author's books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It's really neat. Ivy is really smart and brave and Aunt Jo is cool. I like birds too, but Jo overdoes it a bit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is such a well put together book that it takes up in and you can't get out until the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my summer reading. I absolutely loved it, it took my less than 2 days to read. I connected to the main character Ivy right away. If your family every drives you crazy or you've ever wished to be understood then look no farther than this book- it's perfect for you. I would recommend this book to everyone I know. Joan Bauer writes awesome books, and I'm reading more of her books now. Once you read Backwater there's no turning back, you'll be hooked on Joan Bauer's books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a good book but not the best i've ever read. It is all bout a mysterious missing aunt of Ivy Breedlove. Overall it was well put together but a little shacky at some parts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful book for everyone. I read it in two days. I loved it so much I just had to order all the other books by her.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book had thrill and excitement I highly recommend it
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book the author really has a way that makes you feel like you are in the main character's place. I could not put it down. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a twelve-year old girl, and I absolutely loved this book! I think this book was great because the main character, Ivy, finds her aunt at the same time as she finds pieces to herself. No one in her family believes that she will find her hermit-aunt, but she is confident in herself. I think she is a great example for all girls! You should read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What struck me while reading Backwater was that my spirit carried on a dialogue within myself as the story of the Breedloves unfolded. Maybe it was the simple, straightforward language in the writing. I did not need to spend a lot of mental energy figuring out sentence structure or looking up unfamiliar words in a dictionary to understand what was transpiring in this novel. Perhaps it was the tone of the book that gave flight to my soul! The birds were symbolic. If they could just exist, free to individually express their natures, I knew I, also, could just ¿be¿ myself. The story invoked plenty of man versus nature conflicts. But, the man versus himself conflicts were the most thought provoking. ¿We put you in situations you¿ve never been in before so the true sense of your grit and courage can come out¿, said the expedition guide to Ivy. And, then, there was the man versus society or family conflicts, too. And, yet, the book was not about conflicts. It was about peace, fulfillment, self-realization and harmony. When sixteen-year-old Ivy Breedlove determines to interview her estranged Aunt Josephine before completing her historical account of the Breedloves, she starts the healing process of a family that had no idea it needed any healing whatsoever. The great lawyering tradition, with all its¿ power and speech and arguments to be won, meets headlong with those hermit characteristics of a very peaceful but equally determined and passionate soul. With a lot of help from catastrophic nature, Ivy learns to understand her father and his heritage and receives the acceptance and encouragement she needs from her dad. I enjoyed having made the acquaintance of Mountain Mama, Ivy¿s adventurous guide, who regularly espouses quotes from the chapter headings of the book she plans to write, and from rules for how to survive the wilderness, or makes comments like, ¿Time to lose that memory!¿ when Ivy, faced with a ¿moving challenge¿, says, ¿I have trouble standing on things that are moving. I stood on a float once and thought I was going to vomit.¿ Equally interesting are minor characters like Fiona, a secondary antagonist, and Jack, a potential suitor, whom you could tell ¿was a male you could trust--- unless you needed searching or rescuing.¿ Each character, whether stagnant or dynamic was fully developed. Backwater made me think of poetry the way it leant my spirit a better understanding of human nature and of my own differences. In language simple enough to hold a lot of emotional power, I found myself intuitively connecting with the characters within this work. I believe that Backwater would benefit and be enjoyed by anyone who is in the process of determining what they want to do with their life or in their life or is struggling to find support for their goals within their families. Backwater is extremely enjoyable with an intelligent twist to its¿ contents. I would recommend Backwater to anyone who likes to read good literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do not let the fact that this is an easy book to read fool you into thinking that there will not be any profoundness in Backwater! Backwater is a very interesting novel. It has honesty. The situations are unique, yet, believable. It has humor. Again, the situations are often funny, because, in spite of the different settings, by virtue of shared human nature, you can relate to them. Joan Bauer, the author of Backwater, has written a fine novel with life applications and many Proverb-like words of wisdom throughout. I think that anyone who reads this book would find it very enjoyable and worthwhile! An example of both honesty and a unique and humorous situation found in the novel is when Ivy Breedlove, the protagonist, first meets her hermit aunt, Josephine Breedlove, and Aunt Jo is giving Ivy a tour of her ¿town¿. ¿`That¿s the chapel,¿ Jo said. `I keep it open for the kids year-round.¿ (`kids¿ refers to the birds) `That¿s nice,¿ I [Ivy] said. What I really meant was, That¿s very, very weird.¿ This quote shows the kind of language and dialogue that is in this book. One of the things Ivy learns during the story is to use fear instead of letting it use her. During Ivy¿s journey in Backwater, she learned that she really could do more than she thought. As Mountain Mama said, ¿We put you in situations you¿ve never been in before so the true sense of your grit and courage can come out.' Ivy learned to face people, not only the headmaster at her school, but also her own father, and she learned to face her fears and overcome them. The lesson we realize, along with Ivy, is that fear is not always a bad thing, but is sometimes needed to give you the energy to press on. We can also learn that even though things can seem too hard for us to do, they often are doable if we take that step of faith and try. The tone in this book is tutorial. While reading Backwater you are taken through the story as Ivy finds herself, within her family and other situations. But, although, Ivy is only sixteen years of age, this is not a book just for teenage years. Ivy, as the narrator, demonstrates insights any adult would envy. The writing style of this book employs the use of a lot of dialogue, showing both the characters¿ words and thoughts. The language in Backwater is simple, but not simplistic. The author uses plain words, which can easily be understood, but which express the point well. Backwater is a novel to be experienced like a vacation trip. The snapshots do not do it justice. You would have to have been there.