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on May 28, 2008
Peeled, the latest from Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer, has a most enticing cover. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to read this book.

Hildy lives in a small town in upstate New York with an apple-based economy. Hildy fits in her ambitions to be a journalist between her duties on the family farm- baking, picking and giving tours to elementary school kids. The big festival every year is around harvest time. She is the best writer for her high school newspaper, "The Core" (see the theme here?). When freaky things start happening at the old Ludlow house in town, Hildy knows it's bunk, but isn't sure how to prove it.

Hildy always uses the 5 W's in her questioning (who? what? when? where? why?) and her friends (including cute science geek Zack) to arrive at the truth, and doesn't skip over the hard parts. She's determined and gutsy, and doesn't even back down when the articles she prints start to make some grownups angry. Hildy is a strong female protagonist and this book would be great for kids interested in journalism or creative writing. There's nothing offensive or romantic in here, so this would work for even upper elementary readers.
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on February 5, 2012
As a mother who screens everything her very precocious twelve-year-year daughter reads, I've been finding it even more necessary now to read everything listed as "Young Adult" before said child does. There are so, so many great books out there that are wonderful for teenagers, but the gap between 12-going-on-13 and 16 years old is quite a gap, and I'm beginning to think publishers may want to start listing their books like they do in the movie industry. 12-going-on-13s like to read about high school - but not all that is described in books about high school kids are quite appropriate for 12-going-on-13s! This is especially true for cutely-drawn manga literature, but also true for recommended award-winning books. This is the primary reason I fall back on the classics like "War and Peace," which said daughter is actually really enjoying. Happily, I found "Peeled" by Jane Bauer to be an excellent book set in a small-town high school, and so was delighted to recommend it to said child. Her review of "Peeled" follows:

[ Hildy Biddle is a sixteen-year-old reporter for her high school newspaper, The Core. Unfortunately, the big story is about the old Ludlow house ... and its ghost. But as the "ghost" grows more and more violent and the people more and more scared, can The Core get to the bottom of the mystery? Or will Banesville, New York become a haunted theme park??

[ My favorite characters were Minska and Lacey. I really liked how Minska always stood up for revolutions and changes for the better. I also liked how Lacey was really sweet and nice and actually cared about the little people in the world.

[ My favorite advice from Baker Polton was when Hildy asked him how to get people to take the Core seriously and he replied on page 86, "Start by taking yourselves seriously."

[ My favorite part was definitely on pages 240-24, when the Elders Against Evil staged a protest:

[ "Elders Against Evil started booing and hissing.

[ The sheriff read the contract and walked in slow motion to Pinky and her gang. `You've got to move across the street, ladies. It's the law, but I'm sure not going to have a problem if you take your sweet time.'

[ Two of the elders inched toward the street.

[ Pinky Sandusky turned to follow and shouted, `My knee!'

[ I ran up to her. `What's wrong?'

[ Her eyes were bright. `Why, it's just clicked out on me again, honey. I can't walk. I'm going to have to sit down right here. You help me ... no, not there ... right here on the driveway.' And down she went, holding her SHAME ON YOU! sign.

[ Suddenly, like a bolt from heaven, the Elders Against Evil were all struck in various aging body parts.

[ `My hip!' one cried.

[ `Oh, Lord, my back!' another shouted.

[ Not to be outdone, Erma Lockeed started shrieking about her `entire lower body going into spasm.'

[ Down they went, helped by Sheriff Metcalf, who turned to the lead trucker and said, `Sorry about this, ace. But we can't move these ladies now. They're going to need medical care.'

[ `They can't stay here!' the trucker shouted.

[ `Oh, yes they can!' the sheriff shouted back.

[ Pinky moaned, `I want my doctor.'

[ `What's his name?' the trucker demanded.

[ `Well, now I'm trying to remember. I can see his face plain as anything!'

[ The lead trucker flipped open his phone, punched in numbers. `We got a problem, Mr. Midian. Well, it's ... kind of difficult to explain ...'

[ `It's Elders Against Evil, hotshot!' Pinky bellowed."

[ I would give the book 3.5 stars: two stars for the characters, one star for the humor and half a star for the plot. ]
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on May 12, 2008
There is nothing more that sixteen-year-old Banesville High School junior, Hildy Biddle, wants, than to be a serious, hard-hitting journalist. Someone who breaks the big news before anyone else. Interviews countless people on a quest for an unsuspected scoop. But, as much as Hildy loves her hometown of Banesville, New York, the little apple harvesting town can't exactly be called a hotspot for news. In fact, some of the biggest stories have involved the Apple Blossom Queen, farmer's market scandals, and hotheaded city officials. That is, until the story of a lifetime drops right into Hildy's lap.

For decades people have embellished and spread rumors about a ghost that supposedly resides in the old Ludlow house. A ghost who is evil, has murdered people in the past, and is determined to kill again. Many in Banesville have believed these stories; Hildy has always written them off as rumors. But when controversy revolving around the old Ludlow house, and a ghost begin to resurface, Hildy knows that she has to be on the case. As the top reporter at her high school's newspaper, Hildy is aware that the responsibility of writing and publishing the facts for readers is up to her; therefore, she's determined to solve the mystery, and put it in writing for the world - or, at least all of Banesville - to see. But when you're sixteen-years-old, not everyone is interested in taking you, or your quest for journalistic integrity, seriously; especially when you're up against a local newspaper like The Bee. Anyone with a brain knows that The Bee, along with its publisher and editor, Pen Piedmont, is a farce. The stories are fabricated, blown out of proportion, and more often than not, completely inaccurate. Unfortunately, much of Banesville relies on this fodder for their information. When Piedmont begins publishing stories featuring eerie headlines, spooky happenings, and sightings of ghosts and apparitions, Banesville is in an uproar. Suddenly the quaint little town is flooded with tour buses, creepy characters, and death. Hildy knows that it's up to her to report the truth, but with no one talking, doing that may just be a problem. Unless she can find the words she needs to uncover the truth, and save Banesville.

I have never read anything by Joan Bauer before; but, I will confess, I devoured PEELED in just a few hours, and couldn't have loved it more. Hildy Biddle is a girl after my own heart. Her inquisitive nature, quick wit, sharp tongue, and ability to get people to spill their guts is humorous and fun; while her determination to save her fellow community members is admirable. The commitment and passion Hildy displays towards Banesville is so refreshing and enjoyable; while the descriptions of an apple harvesting community couldn't be more quaint. Bauer's characters are off the wall, intriguing, unique, humorous, and, to put it bluntly, tons of fun. Each community member possesses their own outlandish personality - from the innocent Elizabeth, to the senior citizens who make up the group the Elders Against Evil. Every word Bauer has written in PEELED is a gem in and of itself; and, as a Psychology student, I really enjoyed, and appreciated, Bauer's inclusion of propaganda and mass hysteria; two topics you so rarely see covered in books - especially teen fiction. Bauer has won a fan for life via PEELED, and I can honestly say that I will certainly be seeking out more from her in the future. Crisp and juicy!

Erika Sorocco
Freelance Reviewer
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on September 6, 2013
My son had to read the book for the school summer reading assignment. Never a fun task as he prefers sci-fi, fantasy novels. Turns out he liked it. Each night he filled me in on the latest happenings of the children in the book.
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on July 24, 2008
Rumors of a haunted house ignite the curiosity of teen reporter Hildy Biddle. She starts investigating the story only to have her school newspaper shut down. What Hildy uncovers and how she overcomes the obstacles that would have her silenced are at the core of Joan Bauer's new book, PEELED.

Bauer regularly writes about adolescents who work. Her Newbery Honor book HOPE WAS HERE is about a teen waitress. RULES OF THE ROAD features a young shoe salesperson. PEELED ambitiously takes on the subject of investigative reporting and responsible journalism.

The book is set in the community of Banesville, which has an economy almost entirely dependent on apple growers. Several bad harvests have the farmers and the town struggling. The mayor keeps promising a community redevelopment project without providing any details. The ensuing conflict --- pitting town farmers against the forces of commerce with an inevitable showdown against a bulldozer --- has a hint of melodrama some readers may have encountered before.

The story's villains --- a turban-wearing psychic, a muckraking journalist who goes by the name of Pen Piedmont, and an unscrupulous mayor --- are also stock characters from melodrama, as is the mysterious "haunted" house at the center of the controversy.

It is the other characters in the novel --- the "good guys" --- who make PEELED worth reading. Hildy's plucky heroism puts her in the company of other teenage sleuths. What makes her unique is her methods of investigation and reporting. Her extensive research and interviewing techniques provide excellent models for effective and responsible investigative journalism. Her journalism teacher --- a man who is clearly far more experienced and talented than his work as an advisor for a school newspaper would indicate --- is also an intriguing, original character.

But Hildy's biggest supporter is Minska, a Polish immigrant who grew up under Poland's repressive Communist regime. Minska tells her about Poland's solidarity movement and the prominent role female journalists played in the underground press:

"'They called the women in the underground press the Dark Circles,' she said. 'because they didn't get enough sleep; they wrote night and day. When you have something so important, something that you'll stay awake for, something you know that you were designed to do, well, it's worth getting a few dark circles, don't you think?'"

Drawing inspiration from Minska's stories about Poland's solidarity movement, Hildy and the rest of her school newspaper's staff run their underground newspaper from the back room of Minska's restaurant. Together they provide the momentum to get other members of the community to stand up for themselves.

PEELED works best as a fable about a community facing a campaign of fear-mongering to influence their behavior to the advantage of those who would control them. The book takes the often tedious work of investigative reporting and makes it interesting and relevant to the experience of young people. It is also a reminder that teens are an important part of every community and that the work they do matters.

--- Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood
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on June 22, 2016
"this book had a very good story line and good characters." as per my 13 yr old adhd son who would actually pick this book up on his own to read without my haggling every week!! so it must be good :-)
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on May 1, 2008
Banesville's newspaper, The Bee, has been printing stories about the town's old haunted house and stirring up fear in the town. Hildy Biddle, a reporter for the high school newspaper, The Core, wants to know just who, or what, is haunting Banesville.

Banesville is a quiet little town where the whole economy revolves around producing and selling apples...it's a whole way of life. It seems that because of the old haunted house and the sensationalism that The Bee has stirred up, a very large company wants to build a haunted amusement park revolving around the old Ludlow house. Hildy thinks the editor of The Bee is more interested in sensationalism and selling papers than he is in telling the truth, and now someone is trying to make the apple farmers sell out at below market price to make room for the proposed amusement park.

It's true that there have been reports of eerie, strange happenings and ghostly sightings, but Hildy and her friends at The Core are out to disprove the rumors and save the farmers. Their conflict with the editor of the rival newspaper causes the school to shut down publication of The Core, but Hildy isn't going to let that stop her. Together, can the kids figure out some way to keep the amusement park out and keep the apple country intact?

Bauer specializes in warm, funny, but strong characters, with witty dialogue, and is a genius at plotting exciting, very entertaining stories. PEELED is one of her best. Hildy stays true to her commitment to the town and her dream to be a great journalist as she struggles to overcome obstacles and expose the truth. Her leadership is inspirational as she confronts the established newspaper and its editor to try to save a way of life.

Reviewed by: Grandma Bev
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VINE VOICEon May 4, 2008
"Baker Polton put his feet on the table, leaned back in his chair, and read, '"The long, lonely high school corridors seemed to be filled with the whispers of the graduating seniors who had left their marks on us all."'
"Elizabeth smiled nervously.
"He looked up. 'Did the seniors draw on you with laundry markers?'
"'Why no...'
"He slashed through her copy, wrote in red, We won't forget the graduating seniors. 'Keep it simple, kid. This is journalism, not creative writing.'"

Back when I was traversing my own high school corridors on Long Island in the early 1970s, I distributed an underground newspaper called Dog Breath (apparently named after the melodic Zappa song) to fellow students at Commack North. I knew that those stacks of newspapers were coming from someone in the Huntington area.

(Don't you just love the Internet for being able to track down all sorts of weird stuff?)

Since I was preparing to write about a great new middle school novel involving truth, justice, and a school newspaper named The Core, I was fondly recalling that old underground newspaper and started looking around online to see what I could learn about it (35+ years later). It turns out to have apparently been published by the older brother of a brainy Long Island kid who grew up to invent the Palm Pilot!

"'We've got a bozo who likes rubbing fear and lies in people's faces. He's the only media source in town except us. Who are we writing for?'
"Elizabeth raised her hand emotionally. 'The American people!'
"Baker clasped his brow. 'Let's narrow that.'
Darrell stood. 'We're writing for the community.'
"'And they deserve the facts,' Baker warned. 'Don't ever forget it.'"

There are seriously weird doings in Banesville, a picturesque community in upstate New York that has built up around a core of farms and long-established apple orchards . There have long been rumors that the creepy old Ludlow place is haunted. In fact, a young girl died in an accident on the street right out front five years ago. Now, one man has been caught trying to break in to the old house while another one has been found on the property -- dead!

And the town's paper run by Pen Piedmont seems to be going out of its way, through a series of articles about the incidents, to heighten the fears gripping community members:

"The Bee had in-depth coverage of the Ludlow place, including interviews with unidentified sources too afraid to come forward.'
"It's a funny thing how fear grows. It moves like a virus, infecting person after person.
"There wasn't any medicine to stop the epidemic, either.
"Children were having nightmares about the killer ghost; some were afraid to leave their houses and come to school.
"One kindergarten teacher stopped taking her students out to recess because several of them said they saw a bad ghost behind a tree on the playground.
"I remembered my long year fighting fear in eighth grade after Dad died.
"'Everybody's afraid of something,' Gwen, my therapist, told me back then. 'And fear isn't always a bad thing, Hildy. It can alert us to real danger.' The operative word, Gwen said, was real, not imagined.
"Imagined fears are hard to nail down. For a while I was afraid every time my mom would go out that she'd get in a car accident and never come back. I was afraid that I'd never be happy again, I'd always be crying. I was scared that I had a weak heart like my dad and I'd die at thirty-eight just like he did."

Hildy Biddle, who has grown up on one of those old apple orchards in Banesville, is the hard-working high school reporter who is at the center of the action. She is trying to fill the shoes of her dead father -- a great journalist and beloved community member -- while also attending school and doing her share of chores at home. In the process of trying to unravel (peel) the mysteries of the old Ludlow place, the dead body, and The Bee's role in what is going on, Hildy will come to count on the assistance of the new kid in town (Zack) The Core's curmudgeonly new advisor (Baker Polton), and a town resident (Minska) who "grew up in Communist Poland and saw fighting in the streets when she was a girl":

"'My mother,' Minska said, 'always told me something when I was going to give up. She said, "Sometimes just getting up in the morning and standing at the gate can bring the gate down."'"

In an era when community-based agriculture is rapidly coming to be recognized as a plus in terms of helping to mitigate the problems of global warming (It cuts down on trucking cardboard-like produce back and forth for thousands of miles.), Hildy Biddle's journey into the challenging world of high school journalism is an important as well as a lively and very fun tale about getting to the truth, saving farmlands, and embracing the gift of community.
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on December 5, 2011
Sixteen year-old Hildy Biddle dreams of being a stellar journalist. She's the star writer for her high school newspaper in the small, sleepy farming town of Banesville, NY. I must admit I very nearly put this book in my "Did Not Finish" pile in the first few pages. The book opens with a prolonged description of the Apple Valley Pageant Queen vomiting due to food poisoning. That, plus the fast-paced, noir-inspired, witty banter that Hildy uses initially felt a bit forced - like she was trying too hard to sound like Sam Spade. But, I stuck with it, and things picked up from there.

Hildy reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars... bold, inquisitive and skeptical, and fairly down on the whole idea of dating. She lives with her mom and cousin and grandparents, since the recent death of her father, also a reporter.

The local paper, The Bee, starts printing more and more outrageous stories, claiming there's a ghost haunting the old Ludlow place, creating fear and panic in the town. With the help of her experienced newsman mentor Baker Polton, she sleuths out the clues that lead to the real reason behind the hauntings. When the school shuts down the school paper, The Core, she and her friends start a rebel sheet called The Peel.

Ignoring for the moment, that this is basically the same plot of every episode of Scooby-Doo, ever:

"You mean the editor of The Bee faked all the ghost sightings to lower property values in town so he could build a new development?"
"And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

This was a fast-paced enjoyable read. I can't imagine living in a world where newspapers are as important as they are to Hildy - she and her friends briefly mention the idea of creating a blog to disseminate school news, but quickly veto the idea, because it might not get out to enough people.

This is a solid pick for younger teens, and the perfect book for YA readers looking for non-fantasy realistic fiction without too much emphasis on romance. I'd actually recommend this as a great introduction to Joan Bauer. If readers like this, they'll love the much-stronger Hope Was Here.
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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2011
"'You're just like your father, Hildy Biddle.' I guess that means obstinate, unbending, always searching for truth. I can live with that." - Hildy Biddle, in Peeled

There a lot worse things you could do to Hildy Biddle than compare her to her father. Mitch Biddle was a journalist as well known for his compassion as he was four his absolute dedication to the truth. A big part of the reason Hildy starting writing for the school paper back in the third grade (an article about the death of the class rabbit, Wigglesworth) was her desire to be like her dad. Mitch died three years ago, but Hildy still thinks about the things that he taught her every single day.

After covering such mundane topics as health week and locker safety, Hildy is ready to tackle something a little more serious for her high school paper, The Core and right now the most serious subject in all of Banesville is the mysterious goings on at the abandoned Ludlow house. Folks in town think the place is haunted by the ghost of old man Ludlow, who allegedly killed his wife and her lover there thirty years ago and later died in his yard under an apple tree. Whatever happened in the past, there is definitely something fishy happening there now. Cryptic signs are appearing on the Ludlow property, a man has been accused on attempting to break in, and now a dead body has been found in the yard. The town's only newspaper, The Bee, seems intent on adding to the fear and confusion, even if it means stretching the truth to fit sensationalist headlines. Hildy and her friends at The Core don't know if ghosts are involved or not, but they are determined to investigate thoroughly and print only the truth.

Peeled is classic Joan Bauer, well-written and honest, narrated by a fresh voice young readers can identify with. As with most of Ms. Bauer's novels, she has a point to make with Peeled (the value of truth, the power of words) but she does so very gently, never sacrificing the story in the process. Hildy, a confident, independent girl, faces the kind of questions, dilemmas and ultimately, choices, that will define the adult she will become with both faith and hope. One of the delights in any novel by Ms. Bauer is the cast of supporting characters and that is certainly the case with Peeled. Hildy's family, her friends at The Core and the people of Banesville all add layers of believability (and occasionally humor) to this satisfying novel.
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