Saturday, November 05, 2005


by Joan Bauer, 2001

Before the sisterhood's pants started traveling, before princesses started keeping diaries, Joan Bauer was touching hearts with her novels. Her novels are about young people who are vulnerable but courageous and find pride and strength in a central focus in their life. In Hope was Here, Hope strives to be a uber professional waitress in the diners where her Aunt Addie cooks. Jenna in Rules of the Road can fit and sell shoes better than anyone else on the planet.

The Bauer book that my own daughter seems to return to again and again is Squashed. Ellie is a grower. She grows pumpkin giants. She is the winner of second place in last year's Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-In and is determined to win first place this year. Her father is worried about her obsession with her pumpkin, Max, and that she is missing the normal "fun" of high school as a result. Ellie's mom is dead and they are both working through life without her. The story is not dreary but is full of humor.

Ellie wishes she could lose 20 pounds while she is doing everything she can to add weight to Max. She is also keenly aware of Wes, the new guy in school who is also a grower, though his area is corn. This book was a perfect match with my reading mood. It is fall and pumpkins dot the neighborhood and we have enjoyed our first cold front. I was routing for Ellie and Max to triumph at the fair even though everyone in her family reminds her (and me) that winning is not everything.

I did not know much about Bauer when I stood in line to get my daughter's copy of Squashed signed at TLA a few years ago. As she signed my daughter's battered copy she mentioned that she wrote the book after being seriously injured in a car accident. Lots of things slammed into place about my own girl with that comment. I am so grateful that there are books that help our kids through tough times and are just plain fun to read. Check out Joan Bauer's website for more background on this thoughtful and sensitive writer.

Based on a recent conversation with a young high school person I know my daughter is not alone.

Young High School Person: Where do I return this book?

Me: In that slot but I can take it. Oohh.. is that the new sequel to Rules of the Road? I have not read it yet. (The book was Best Foot Forward.)

YHSP: Yes, it was wonderful. Have YOU read Rules of the Road?

Me: Yes, it is great.

YHSP (holding library book against her heart): I l-o-v-e Joan Bauer's books! I l-o-v-e her characters. Have you read Hope was Here?

Me: Yes, have you read Squashed?

YHSP: No, I don't know that one. Do we have it?

The library did.

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