Cover image for Backwater
Bauer, Joan, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Putnam, [1999]

Physical Description:
185 pages ; 22 cm
While compiling a genealogy of her family of successful attorneys, sixteen-year-old history buff Ivy Breedlove treks into the mountain wilderness to interview a reclusive aunt with whom she identifies and who in turn helps her to truly know herself and her family.
Reading Level:
810 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.1 6.0 32219.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.5 11 Quiz: 18831 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Reading List
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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Ivy Breedlove's family is driving her crazy. Generations of Breedloves have been prominent lawyers and her relatives expect her to follow suit. "We'll make her a lawyer yet!" they pronounce at a family reunion. Well, not if Ivy has her say. But how do you have your say when the voices surrounding you are so loud? Ivy's passion for the past provides an answer. As she works on completing a history of her illustrious family, she discovers other Breedlove women who broke the mold, including her father's sister Josephine. No one will talk about the reclusive Aunt Jo, so when Ivy hires a wilderness guide to find her, her family is less than thrilled. Armed with her thirst for knowledge, Ivy undertakes a dramatic journey up an icy mountain and into the backwater to try to find someone, perhaps, like herself.Once again Joan Bauer has created a truly memorable heroine. Her most recent novel, Rules of the Road, received many starred reviews and Booklist said: "It's downright wonderful these days to find a teenage protagonist who is smart, moral, funny, confident (mostly), and open-minded about grown-ups."

Author Notes

Joan Bauer is the author of numerous books for young readers including Soar; Rules of the Road, which received the L.A. Times Book Prize; Hope Was Here, which won a Newbery Honor Medal and the Christopher Award; and Close to Famous, which won the Christopher Award and the Schneider Family Book Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. Sixteen-year-old, motherless Ivy Breedlove has a genuine calling to be a historian. When her great-aunt's failing vision forces her to stop work on a family history, Ivy takes on the job, doing it so thoroughly that she rattles the rest of the clan. The Breedloves are a strenuous, overachieving New York State family, bred to the legal profession since the first ancestors stepped off the Mayflower. They have also, Ivy finds, produced occasional "backwater" Breedloves--fascinating eccentrics like Ivy's own Aunt Jo, a sculptor living alone deep in the Adirondacks, ignored by the rest of the family. When Ivy hires wilderness guide Mountain Mama to help her track down Aunt Jo for an interview, her life--and that of the entire Breedlove family--changes forever. This warm, funny, patchwork quilt of a book offers a sturdy heroine, vivid characters, a touch of romance, and a final survival adventure that will keep readers turning the pages to the last. But Bauer tackles more, bringing in issues of personal and historical honesty, connection between generations, and tolerance for those who follow a different drummer. Pair this with Bauer's Rules of the Road (1998) for a dynamite mother-daughter book discussion. --Jean Franklin

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this compelling, though ultimately uneven outing, Bauer (Rules of the Road) travels to a literal and emotional backwater, navigating the strong ties that bind-and have the potential to choke-a proud but dysfunctional family. For generations, the Breedloves have been respected lawyers in the community, and it's been expected-nearly demanded-that 16-year-old Ivy will follow in their footsteps. But Ivy feels driven to become a historian and, as her first major project, she undertakes the task of compiling the Breedlove genealogy. As the family gathers for the holidays, Ivy's time-saving Aunt Fiona (she has her own TV show, It's About Time) skims through the family history with a video camera. But Ivy determines that, to make the family tree complete, she must locate long-lost Aunt Josephine, her father's rebellious sister. Her search leads her to the Adirondacks, where she comes face-to-face with not only Josephine, but Ivy's own fears about life as a Breedlove. In the best passages, Bauer's characters crackle with eccentricity and exhibit glimmers of intense emotion. Mountaineering fans will also thrill at the wintry, rugged scenery. But in the end, readers may feel Ivy's adventure-and the extreme avenues taken by Josephine-to be too far-fetched. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 UpDuring a family reunion at Plum Lake, NY, at the beginning of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, teenager Ivy Breedlove feels overwhelmed by the aggressive energy pouring forth from her relatives. Because she doesnt want to follow the family tradition of becoming a lawyer and prefers quiet pastimes such as reading and genealogy, they are somewhat contemptuous of her, remarking that she reminds them of crazy, mysterious Aunt Josephine, who disappeared years ago. Upset that Aunt Fiona thinks that family history can be suitably reported on a quickly produced videotape and totally leaving out Josephine, Ivy embarks on a search for the missing woman. Following this quest into the mountains leads Ivy to engage the climbing talents of the physically powerful, worldly wise, and somehow engaging Mountain Mama. Through blisters, storms, collapsed shelter, and shifting lake ice, Ivy struggles to reunite her family and secure her own place within it. Bauer brings together seemingly disparate plot elements and makes them work beautifully. Readers will feel an immediate rapport with Ivy, and they will come to understand, admire, and learn from Mountain Mama and Josephine. Rich with engaging characters, a light love interest, and dramatic tension in a well-paced plot, this is another great read from Bauer.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.