All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Joan Bauer

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Joan Bauer was born in 1951 in River Forest, Illinois. The eldest of three sisters, Joan grew up writing stories, poems, and entries in her diary. Joan's mother was a high school English teacher and her grandmother, who lived at home, was a professional storyteller. When Joan was eight, her parents got divorced and her father, who was an alcoholic, dropped out of her life. As a teen, Joan was a self-described "rebel" who was trying to find her place in the world without a father figure. She credits her early jobs and love for books as positive influences that helped keep her on the right track.

In her early twenties Joan began a career in sales and advertising in Chicago. At the age of 30, she married a computer engineer named Evan Bauer, who encouraged her to pursue her passion for writing. For a while, she wrote articles for magazines and newspapers. Then she decided to become a screenwriter. But just as Joan Bauer was trying out her newest career, she was seriously injured in a car accident. Forced to give up the daily demands of screenwriting while recovering from surgery, Bauer began writing a story about a girl in a pumpkin-growing competition. This story became Squashed, a novel that won the Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel.

After trying out many different careers, Joan Bauer finally found her calling as a young adult novelist. Her subsequent novels earned many more awards, including a prestigious Newberry Honor for Hope Was Here. Over the years, Bauer has learned that some of her most powerful writing comes from tapping into the adversity that she has faced throughout her life. Rules of the Road, for example, deeply affects readers who have struggled with alcoholism in their own families. Writing it was also a healing and cathartic experience for Bauer herself.

Today Joan Bauer and her husband in Brooklyn, New York. When Joan is not writing, she loves to read, cook, walk, laugh, travel, and watch movies.

Selected Books

from Joan Bauer

Best Foot Forward

Age Level: 12-14

Jenna is happy with her job at Gladstone Shoes, although she doesn’t understand why Mrs. Gladstone hires a man that she caught shoplifting to help around the store. This is a sequel to Bauer's earlier Rules of the Road (1998), but readers need not read the books in order.

Buy Best Foot Forward


Age Level: 14-16

Banesville, located in the heart of the apple-growing area of upstate New York, is no longer the idyllic small town it once was. There are rumors of ghosts, of an abandoned house being haunted, and of people dying in suspicious ways. The townsfolk are beginning to live in fear. All of this is inflamed by the unscrupulous editor of the local newspaper. Hildy Biddle and the staff of the high school newspaper, The Core, must unveil the corruption that has infiltrated their town before it's too late. (from

Buy Peeled

Hope Was Here

Age Level: 14-16

When 16-year-old Hope and the aunt who has raised her move from Brooklyn to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, to work as waitress and cook in the Welcome Stairways diner, they become involved with the diner owner's political campaign to oust the town's corrupt mayor. (from

Buy Hope Was Here

Rules of the Road

Age Level: 14-16

Meet Jenna Boller, star employee at Gladstone Shoe Store in Chicago. Standing a gawky 5'11'' at 16 years old, Jenna is the kind of girl most likely to stand out in the crowd — for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn't stop Madeline Gladstone, the president of Gladstone's Shoes, from hiring Jenna to drive her cross country in a last ditch effort to stop Elden Gladstone from taking over his mother's company and turning a quality business into a shop-and-schlock empire. Now Jenna Boller shoe salesperson is about to become a shoe-store spy as she joins her crusty old employer for an eye-opening adventure that will teach them both the rules of the road — and the rules of life. (from

Buy Rules of the Road

Stand Tall

Age Level: 14-16

Sam Benton has always been the tallest student in his class. In fourth grade, Jeremy Liggins began calling him Tree, the nickname stuck, and now that is what everyone calls him. Because of his height, Tree has endured much teasing from classmates. But seventh grade is the hardest. (from

Buy Stand Tall


Age Level: 14-16

Every Breedlove is a lawyer or soon will be, except Ivy Breedlove, who wants to be a historian, and her supposedly crazy Aunt Josephine who disappeared years ago. When Ivy's Great Aunt Tib's eyesight begins to fail, the responsibility of researching and writing the family history falls on Ivy, a task that she relishes. After learning that her Aunt Josephine is still alive, Ivy wants to find her. Relying on the expert skills of a wilderness guide named Mountain Mama, Ivy is led to Josephine's log cabin in a remote area of the Adirondacks where she meets and gets to know her aunt while interviewing her for the family history. (from

Buy Backwater


Age Level: 12-14

This is a story about a teenager and her vegetable, about having a gigantic dream and trying to fulfill it, about people we love not always understanding our passions, about being ourselves when most of the world says to conform. It's about the power of grandmothers, the magic of seeds, the triumph of agriculture, and a towering dad who learns who his daughter really is. (from

Buy Squashed