Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peeled, by Joan Bauer

Title:  Peeled
Author:  Joan Bauer
Publisher:  Putnam Juvenile
Year:  2008
Pages:  256
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Themes:  Truth, Fear, Manipulation of the Press, Community, Loss
Age Range:  5th through 10th Grade

Summary:  from Goodreads

Something's rotten in the heart of apple country!
Hildy Biddle dreams of being a journalist. A reporter for her high school newspaper, The Core, she's just waiting for a chance to prove herself. Not content to just cover school issues, Hildy's drawn to the town's big story--the haunted old Ludlow house. On the surface, Banesville, USA, seems like such a happy place, but lately, eerie happenings and ghostly sightings are making Hildy take a deeper look.
Her efforts to find out who is really haunting Banesville isn't making her popular, and she starts wondering if she's cut out to be a journalist after all. But she refuses to give up, because, hopefully, the truth will set a few ghosts free.

Writers like to write about writing-that is clear.  Bauer chose to write about journalism in this book, and she did an excellent job of showing what good journalism can be, even when done by high school students.  But what made this book more charming was the fact that it was essentially a cozy mystery for the tween set.  If you aren't familiar with cozy mysteries, they are mystery novels written around a specific industry or community.  There are cozy mysteries about farmers' markets, wine sellers, tea sellers, book sellers...they always remind me of  that old show Murder, She Wrote.  The setting for Peeled is apple growing country in upstate New York.  Much of the novel revolves around apple growing, apple orchards, selling apple products, etc...The mystery itself is pretty innocuous.  There is a death, but it was not a violent one.  What really drives the novel is the conflict between real journalism and sensational, tabloid style journalism.  While the book is an easy read, there is enough substance there that you could have a discussion about how people can use the media to manipulate public opinion.  Whether you choose to use it as a teaching tool or not, this is a good book to have in your classroom library.

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