The Washington Post
Peeledby Joan Bauer
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Hildy Biddle wants something monumental to happen so she can finally prove herself to be more than a high school journalist. The problem? Her town?s biggest story stars a ghost, which is not an easy interview. But while the local paper is playing up people?s fears with shocking headlines of creepy happenings, Hildy is determined to discover what?s really going on. Unfortunately, her desire to uncover the truth is starting to cause a stir. With rumors swirling and tensions high, can Hildy push past all the hype and find out the real truth?
The Washington Post
Bauer's (Hope Was Here) fans will appreciate this diverting novel's shout-out to the author's debut, Squashed, from which she also harvests a few themes. In an upstate New York hamlet known for its apples, aspiring teen journalist Hildy Biddle treasures her staff position on the high school paper, aptly named The Core. She does whatever it takes to find the facts for a story, hoping she is honoring the memory of her late father, a respected local reporter. But when the opportunistic publisher of the town paper whips the citizens into a frenzy with sensational stories of ghosts and eerie happenings, Hildy and her friends are determined to expose the truthwhich involves a disreputable development company. With sharp pacing and an intriguing premise, Bauer renders a fully realized portrait of a small town dependent on an ever-fragile agricultural economy and threatened by modern encroachment. As always, she stocks her work with strong, sage women, the elements for a budding romance and plenty of funny moments. But it's Hildy readers will remember longest, a smart girl who realistically blends the spunkiness, brains and good humor that is Bauer's stock-in-trade. Ages 12up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As a high school journalist living in upstate New York apple country, Hildy Biddle finds herself needing to get to the core of a problem plaguing her town. The town newspaper has been revived by Pen Piedmont, whose stories spread apprehension centered around the local "haunted" house. Ominous notes are posted on the house, and a psychic moves into town to further stir anxieties. Hildy and her staff find support from a washed up newsman, Baker Polton, but a dead body, a frightened child, and worried orchard owners edge the town toward unhealthy panic. Summoning courage from the memories of her journalist father; a new student, Zach, who is determined to see things scientifically; and restaurant owner Minska who grew up during the solidarity movement in Poland, Hildy determinedly digs for the truth to save her town from being swallowed by greedy developers. Bauer again presents readers with a strong protagonist who wrestles hope from a situation fraught with tribulations. Hildy is surrounded by a finely drawn cast of major and minor characters, from the feisty Elders Against Evil squad to the wise Minska and cynical wordsmith Polton. Bauer uses apple farming as an apt metaphor for the world, where one must deal with what cannot be changed but work tirelessly to make the best of it. In a time when journalism too often flaunts sensationalism, Hildy and crew demonstrate ethics and determination in a story that is wonderfully teachable, highly readable, and ready to delight Bauer fans, old and new. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
Gr 6-9- Hildy Biddle, high school reporter for The Core , has her hands full following the story of a ghost haunting the old Ludlow place. Life in her sleepy apple-valley town is upset like the proverbial apple cart when a dead body turns up in the Ludlow orchard and enigmatic warnings are scrawled on the door-"YOU DIDN'T THINK IT WAS SAFE, DID YOU?" Rumors fly and fear mounts as Pen Piedmont, editor of the town newspaper, The Bee , prints ever more sensational stories about the eerie goings-on. Hildy, her fellow intrepid high school reporters, and their seasoned newshound adviser are determined to uncover the truth. When they ask the right questions of the wrong people, the principal caves in to threats of litigation from Piedmont and shuts The Core down. Unlikely help comes from café owner and Polish immigrant Minska, whose experience with an underground press inspires them to start an independent news sheet, The Peel , and reveal the true villain. Peeled is vintage Bauer, a warm and funny story full of likable, offbeat characters led by a strongly voiced, independently minded female protagonist on her way to genuine, well-earned maturity. Bauer seasons Hildy's story with the high school homecoming dance, a budding romance, strong friend and family ties, and a host of quirky characters, then serves it up in quick-paced prose juicy with apple metaphors. A-peeling all around!-Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS
Sharp pacing and an intriguing premise....She stocks her work with strong, sage women, the elements for a budding romance and plenty of funny moments. ùPublishers Weekly, starred review
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- 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
- Age Range:
- 11 - 15 Years
Read an Excerpt
DATELINE: Banesville, New York. May 3.
Bonnie Sue Bomgartner, Banesville’s soon-to-be 67th Apple Blossom Queen, let loose a stream of projectile vomiting in the high school cafeteria.
“It was the tuna fish,” she gasped miserably, and proceeded to upchuck again.
I wrote that down on my notepad as Darrell Jennings and I took a big step back.
The crowning of the queen was tomorrow at 10:00 A.M. in the Happy Apple Tent—a major moment in my small town of Banesville, an orchard-growing community in Upstate New York where apples are our livelihood and the core of our existence.
The nurse rushed in. Darrell, the editor of The Core, the high school paper where I worked as a reporter, said, “It’s a cliffhanger, Hildy. The festival law says if the queen is sick and can’t appear, the runner-up gets crowned.”
“I didn’t know that.”
He pushed his glasses onto his head and grinned. “That’s why I’m the editor.”
I jabbed him in the arm for that comment. Darrell has been editing my copy for close to forever.
Bonnie Sue heaved again and the nurse mentioned something about food poisoning.
“My brother had food poisoning and it kept coming up all weekend,” Darrell whispered ominously. “Stay on this, Hildy. This could be big. Bigger than big. I want the story behind the story.”
He always says that.
Mrs. Perth, the festival coordinator, who also worked in the school office, ran in. “She’ll be fine, everyone.”
Bonnie Sue looked close to apple green. I felt for her, honestly, even though she was the kind of gorgeous girl who acted like she was personally responsible for her looks.
Mrs. Perth handed Bonnie Sue a tub of lip gloss. Bonnie Sue glossed and stuck her head back in the bucket.
“Everything,” Mrs. Perth said fiercely, “will be fine.”
She shooed us out of the cafeteria, but not before she said to me, “Hildy, of course we don’t want to mention this incident in our paper.”
I looked at my notes. “Why not?”
“Hildy, the Apple Blossom Festival is about the hope of the harvest yet to come.”
Banesville needed a good harvest. We were still -reeling from two bad harvests in a row. This was a make-or-break year for the orchards.
“I understand about the hope, Mrs. Perth, but a queen with food poisoning is kind of interesting and—”
Mrs. Perth forced out a smile. “The Apple Blossom Queen is the symbol of unbridled joy and farm-fresh produce.” Her plump hand covered mine. “And we wouldn’t want that symbol to be tarnished in any way. Would we?”
“But Bonnie Sue has food poisoning. That’s the truth.”
“The truth,” she snarled, “is that we’ve had quite enough problems in Banesville! This festival is committed to being happy and positive from beginning to end!” Her eyes turned to slits. “You’re just like your father, Hildy Biddle.”
“Thank you,” I said quietly. She shut the cafeteria door in my face.
From behind the door, I heard Bonnie Sue bellow, “I’m not giving up my crown! I earned it! It’s mine!”
I wrote that down, too.
I was standing in front of Frankie’s Funny Fun Mirrors, watching them stretch my legs and elongate my neck and head as the Apple Blossom Festival pulsated around me.
Two little boys ran up, snickering.
“What’s worse than finding a worm in an apple you’re eating?” the bigger one asked me.
“Finding half a worm!”
They grabbed their throats, shrieked, “Eeeewwww!” and ran off.
I made a face in the mirror, stuck out my tongue.
Hildy Biddle, reporter at large.
I headed across the midway that was actually Banesville High’s football field. I walked under the great arch of blossoms, passing men dressed like Johnny Appleseed. I turned left at the storytelling tent where Granny Smith, our local storyteller, was holding forth; did a twirl and a two-step past Bad Apple Bob and the Orchard Boys playing their foot-stomping regional hit, “You Dropped Me Like an Apple Peel on the Ground.”
“Oh, baby,” I sang along with them, “why’d you have to go?”
You’re just like your father, Hildy Biddle.
I guess that meant obstinate, unbending, always searching for truth.
I can live with that.
I remembered being with Dad at the festival when I was little, riding the Haunted Cider Mill roller coaster, hiding behind him when the wicked queen from Snow White walked by with her poisoned apple. We’d eat fat caramel apples, drink cider till our stomachs would groan. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be a memory of him.
He died three years ago from a heart attack.
I still can’t imagine what God was thinking when he let that happen.
I looked up in the sky and saw Luss Lustrom’s two-seater prop plane flying overhead. I waved even though he couldn’t see me. Luss gave air tours of the apple valley. I rode with him last year. I’ll never forget the experience—flying low over the apple trees that were in full blossom. The sky seemed bluer than it did when I was standing on the ground; the valley seemed sweeter; the promise of good soil that people would fight for and cry over seemed real to me.
Luss did his best cackling ghost laugh as we flew over the old Ludlow property, a place some people in town thought was haunted.
“The ghost of old man Ludlow,” Luss shouted darkly. “Will we see him?”
I hoped not.
I had wanted to keep flying in the sky with Luss and not come down, but when your family owns an orchard, coming down to earth isn’t optional.
I headed to the Happy Apple Tent, where the queen would be crowned. Bonnie Sue Bomgartner wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She had missed the filling of the giant grinning apple balloon. She’d missed Mayor Frank T. Fudd’s annual declaration: “I can feel it in my bones; this is going to be the best festival ever!” The tent was crammed with people. Tanisha Bass, my best friend and The Core’s photographer, was stationed by the entrance. A group of small children dressed like honeybees held hands and wove through the crowd.
My cousin Elizabeth, The Core’s graphic artist, who wrote for the paper only when we were desperate for copy, whispered, “I heard Bonnie Sue is still at home.”
Darrell, our editor, shook his head. “She made it to the convertible in her pink dress.”
“And puked on the dress, I heard.” That was Lev Radner, my second former boyfriend and The Core’s marketing manager.
I looked at Lev’s thick, curly dark hair, his blue eyes, his chiseled jaw. He was seriously cute, but I’m sorry, when a guy cheats on me—and this does happen with disturbing regularity—I’m gone.
T. R. Dobbs, our sportswriter, marched up. “This just in—the convertible turned back.”
“How do you know this?” I demanded.
“I never divulge my sources,” T.R. said, smiling.
“Big woman approaching.” Tanisha pointed to Mrs. Perth, who was chugging toward the tent, apple blossoms bouncing on her straw hat, not a happy camper.
I stepped into her path. “Mrs. Perth, could you—”
She almost ran me over! “Are you coming?” she barked, looking behind her.
I looked to see Lacey Horton, the Apple Blossom Queen runner-up, walking hesitantly toward the tent, not in the traditional pink dress with pink heels, but in jeans, boots, and a work shirt. Lacey was president of the Horticulture Club and, like me, the child of family orchard owners.
She caught up with Mrs. Perth, who snapped, “How you think you can represent the growers of Banesville dressed like that, Miss Horton, I will never know.”
Lacey smiled sweetly. “All I know how to be is -myself.”
Mrs. Perth harrumphed and handed Lacey a tub of lip gloss. Lacey handed it back.
I took notes like mad. Tanisha snapped shots. Suddenly another photographer elbowed his way past Tanisha and started photographing Lacey.
Tanisha tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me.”
The guy ignored her. His cap read Catch the buzz in Banesville . . . Read THE BEE. The Bee is our local newspaper.
Mrs. Perth hissed, “Let’s get this over with.”
Lacey looked down. She wasn’t gorgeous like Bonnie Sue, but she was pretty enough, with dark brown hair and green eyes.
“Congratulations, Lacey,” I said, grinning. “How’s it feel to be queen?”
“Weird,” she whispered.
“We've had so many challenges in town,” I continued. “What’s it mean to you to be queen of this year’s festival?”
Mrs. Perth interrupted, “We don’t have time for—”
“I’d like to answer Hildy’s question, Mrs. Perth.” Lacey smiled at me. “It means that maybe I can help people understand what it’s like to be a small farmer.”
I felt like cheering.
Lacey wasted no time redefining her role. She stood on the stage, one hand steadying her crown, the other holding the microphone.
“We all know in Banesville how things can change suddenly, like the weather,” she began.
People chuckled. That was for sure.
“I know that lots of you have come from out of town—we welcome you to Banesville and hope you have a wonderful time at our festival. I’d like to say something to all the people who are growers in this area.” She looked around the packed tent. “It’s been a hard two years; my family and I know that firsthand. Lots of us have suffered, the bad weather has hurt our crops. But I know how much every grower loves their land. That’s why we’re still here, still able to celebrate the hope of a new harvest. I’m so proud to be a part of this!” She turned grinning to her parents, who were beaming in the front row.
“We can’t give up,” Lacey continued. “We need to stand together. So today, let’s celebrate the hard work, the good land, and the wonderful produce that come from it.”
The crowd burst into applause. Tanisha’s little white dog, Pookie, ran across the stage in a sequined pink sweatshirt and jumped into Lacey’s arms. Pookie is the unofficial mascot of Banesville.
A huge roar of approval went up.
A little girl tugged at my shirt. “Is she a farmer or a queen?”
“Both,” I said, smiling.
Yes. Very cool.
I titled my article on Lacey “Long Live the Queen!” I included the behind-the-scenes vomiting drama, written sensitively, of course. I tried to interview Bonnie Sue Bomgartner to see how she was doing, having lost the crown and all, but she told me to take a walk in dog poop and mind my own business. It was one of the best pieces I’d written for the paper.
I’d officially broken free now from the early days of high school journalism, with groaner topics like “Hooray for Health Week” and “Locker Safety for Dummies.”
But I wanted to take on more.
All summer long, I read every piece of fine reporting I could get my hands on. I practiced writing lead sentences and drove my family and friends crazy asking the questions all reporters have to ask to get to the meat of a story—who, what, where, when, why, and how.
By July, my grandmother Nan would head the other way when she saw me coming. “Hildy Biddle,” she’d shout, “I swear, if you ask me one more time what I’m doing, where I’m going, why I’m going, when I’m coming back, who I’m meeting with, and how I’m feeling about the world, I’m going to start screaming and not stop!”
Asking questions is an art, but not everyone appreciates the beauty.
I kept asking questions all summer as the spooky signs began to appear on the front door of the old Ludlow house.
Danger to all ye who enter
The Domicile of Doom
“Who’s putting those signs up?” I asked. No one in town knew.
“What should be done?” I demanded.
“Why isn’t someone tearing them down?”
When people have had a few bad years, they tend to let things go.
A few weird-looking characters were coming to town, too. One woman I saw had a shaved head and was wearing skeleton earrings. The guy she was with had a deathly white face.
“Where’s the ghost house?” they asked drearily.
“Up on the hill,” I told them.
Then, in August the high school auditorium roof collapsed without warning. School hadn’t started yet, thank God; no one was hurt.
It felt like something bad was seeping into the -atmosphere—until, that is, you looked at our fields, which were finally bringing forth an abundant harvest. It’s hard to think dark thoughts when you’re biting into a juicy peach, tough to focus on ghostly gloom when you’re gobbling sweet corn slathered with salted butter and finishing the meal off with blueberry shortcake with mounds of fresh whipped cream. By late August the tables at the Banesville Farmers Market were heavy with heirloom tomatoes, sweet nectarines, heavenly plums, summer squash, and peppers. The early apples were rolling off the trucks—crisp, sweet, and filled with the promise that so much more was coming.
There were a few stories in The Bee about the Ludlow place and how there’d been ghost sightings. Some unnamed businessperson who claimed to have seen old man Ludlow’s ghost was quoted: “I think Banesville better brace itself for trouble.”
“Do you think that place is haunted?” Tanisha asked me.
I wasn’t sure. I just wanted that house to go away.
Everyone was talking about it.
My father always told me, “When a story keeps coming at you day and night, pay attention.” Dad was a reporter, too.
The phone call came in early September.
I’m here to tell you, I paid attention.
What People are saying about this
Sharp pacing and an intriguing premise....She stocks her work with strong, sage women, the elements for a budding romance and plenty of funny moments. Publishers Weekly, starred review
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 storyteller—so 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 up—a 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 build—writing 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book was very good and I loved the ending. I read this book awhile ago, so I can not give a full in depth review. Although it is still an amazing story about how one person can help start something that can help stop something harming their community.
okay , so i was at my school's bookfair , and i really needed a book to read . my friend said that she saw this book on the internet and was looking into it , meaning that she was thinking about buying it . so i said imma just buy it and then you can borrow it . i start to read and pshhh i start to get sleepy , like seriously . it is so boring . i know most books start off slow , but mannnn . i read up to page 74 , maybe , and i had to stop . i guess its not my type of book . but remember , thats just my opinion , you might like it .
Awesome! I read this book during the summer while I was going into 6th grade. So I was eleven years old when I read it. Ad I still love this book! I had to read any book I chose and I am so glad I picked this one.
Great. No, fantastic. Believe me readers, you will fall in love with Banesville New York and the Happy Apple Valley. Hildy Biddle is one of the greatest characters ever!! Great detail and description. So much story, but believe me that is not a bad thing! Lots of things going on. Characters have there own stories. Read it. :)
I highly recommend this book! One of my all time favorites!!!
I was at my school library, glanced at this book, and almost left it in its place. Then the author's name caught my attention: Joan Bauer. I had read another one of her books, Hope was Here, and loved it. The cover didn't really get me interested, but more than once have I been reminded that you can never trust a book by its cover. This book is no exception. Crisp, clever, and witty, Joan Bauer shows once again her talent for reaching down into us readers, and tugging our heart-strings. She doesn't write about action heroes, the future, or anything out-of-this-world. She writes about normal people, who encounter the same dilemmas as many of us, and still manages to hold on to our attention and get us hooked. 256 pages, Peeled is our form of food for the soul. The story stars a 16 year old girl named Hildy Biddle, who loves nothing more than journaling for her school newspaper. Living in Banesville, New York, breaking news would consist of the death of the biology teacher's hamster and what's for lunch. But things don't stay that way for long. Mysterious notes start popping up near the eerie Ludlow house. Rumor has it that the ghost of the original owner (who killed his lover) was out and about again. The towns other news paper, The Bee, tries to convince the town of this rumor, and people start to get scared. All except for Hildy and a few other people. Hildy smells something fishy about the whole thing, and she's out to find the truth, even when it means that her school newspaper will be taken away. But just because you can't write for the school, doesn't mean you still can't get your opinion out there. Hildy and her friends will go to extreme measures to get the real story to the people, no matter what it takes. Humor, mystery, moving, romantic, you name it, Bauer's got it. Hildy is an intriguing character. She's curious, persistent, and determined. And through her fight for justice, she fights her personal battles just as strongly. She misses her dad, who died of a heart attack. She says once in the book, "How can someone with such a big heart die of a heart attack?" Amidst the fear in Banesville, she manages to deal with her grief, one step at a time. And through the new student at school, she grows in her confidence and also makes a great new friend. The plot was so well thought out. If the end of the book is like the core of an apple, Joan Bauer really knows how to keep us peeling and peeling, wanting to know how it ends, but somehow never wanting the ending to come.
This book was sort of slow and boring. I thought it would be thrilling like Nancy Drew, with Hildy investigating the haunted house, but it didn't have much action. It's still an awsome book, and has kids standing up to what they beleive in, but is kind of boring. It's a good read if you like jouralism, and people standing up for what they beleive in.
I loved this book! The only bad thing was that I was expecting it to be more scarier and suspencful like Nancy Drew. I recommemend it to anyone who loves journalism!
This book was a wonderful book. I love how the book was about a mystery! I encourage people to read this book.(P.S. there are no nasty words in this book.)
whaat a great book. kinda reminds me of to kill a mockingbird book, but with a newspaper. great themes, great lessons to be learned. read this book
I have never read this book before but i really want to. It seems really good. Joan Bauer like my ultimate all time extreme super duper most favorite author. I read almost home and close to famous without even skimming!!! She is a really good author and i am really looking forward to reading more of her books!!!
One of my all time favs!
Awesome i loveniall
Not her best book i fell asleep reading it
its the kind of book that keeps you guessing. it's about a teenage reporter who is determined to find the truth about a creepy house in her town.
This novel is fun and thought provoking for 5th-8th graders. It examines fear, free speech, and some basics of writing for a newspaper. It is clean without talking down to students. Girls will probably find it more interesting than boys because of the female protagonist.