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Summary: Banesville, New York is apple country. It's small enough that the high school newspaper, The Core, writes stories about the community's events. Banesville is not, however, a sleepy town. There is a haunted house, a ghost, a dead guy, and some out-of-towners snooping around. Hildy Biddle and the staff at The Core are learning first-hand about fact, fiction, and the freedom of speech. There are lots of layers in this well-paced novel: journalism, life as a teen, farming, and community dynamics. This has potential as a high interest / low readability selection for teens.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself:
Interest Level: 10 and up
Reading Level: 4.2
Age of Child: Reviewed by a student at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.
Young Reader Reaction: I picked this book because it sounded pretty interesting, which at times it was. The first chapter started introducing some of the main characters so it gave a feel for how the book might be, but it didn't change my perception. I liked the moral of the story and the little mystery that was within the story. I was also amused by the characters' personalities because they either clicked or they were the complete opposite, which stirred up some drama and intensity at times. To me, the moral was to chase your dreams and follow your heart regardless of what other people think.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a very enjoyable, enlightening read. Hildy very effectively tells the story, and she not only offers her own feelings as a high school student dealing with the loss of her father, but also as a first-hand observer of the economics of being a farmer. The author very skilfully weaves together the themes of journalism and the First Amendment and the Polish Revolution. These are areas of knowledge and experience kids take for granted ... or don't even know about. Although teens will immediately see that it's the adults who "keep them down," the author makes it clear that it isn't all of them.
Pros: Teens will enjoy this well-told story about high school students and how they persevere in the face of adversity imposed by adults. Student reviewer: Everything was put in a good order/arrangement. All of the characters were described very well, as were the locations, so you could draw a picture of everything in your head.
Cons: None. Student reviewer: The book seemed to be rather long with a lot of rambling at times, but overall it was a good book.
Borrow or Buy: Buy! This is a wonderful book. Student reviewer: I say this is a book to borrow. I mean I wasn't rushing out to get it or anything, so it is a book to be borrowed.
Educational Themes: There are lots of things to explore, from the individual plights of Hildy Biddle to "progress," development, and farm life. The insights into journalism and how it works, though, are particularly fascinating and even though it is an integral part of the story, it easily discerned as its own topic.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 3.0. The publisher donated a copy of this book to the Reading Tub, Inc. This is an unsolicited donation.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, school, death and loss, middle grade, young adult