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|Publisher:||Perfection Learning Corporation|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
"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.
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.
Excerpted from "Peeled"
Copyright © 2009 Joan Bauer.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
A-peeling all around! School Library Journal
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