by Joan Bauer

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Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares? Well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. But Ivy wants to be a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. This undertaking takes Ivy on a great journey, as she hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo -- and her own destiny.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101657867
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 06/02/2005
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
File size: 303 KB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Joan Bauer ( is the author of numerous books for young readers. She received a Newbery Honor Medal for Hope Was Here, and the L.A. Times Book Prize for Rules of the Road. The Christopher Award was given to both Hope was Here and Close to Famous, which also received the Schneider Family Book Award. Joan is the recipient of numerous state awards voted by readers.

School Library Journal says, “When it comes to creating strong, independent, and funny characters, Bauer is in a class by herself.”

Reading Group Guide


Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules of the Road, the central story is of a journey: Ivy hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo-and to find her own destiny as well. Persistent, mouthy, and good, Ivy is an admirable heroine who will be familiar to Bauer fans; older female friends (including Tib, Aunt Jo, and wilderness expert Mountain Mama) are equally attractive if given to message-laden dialogue. In fact, the book could have used less preaching and more story overall, but Ivy is such a darned fine gal that readers will be glad to make her acquaintance.



Joan Bauer was born in River Forest, Illinois, the eldest of three sisters. Her mother was a schoolteacher with a great comic sense; her father, a salesman that no one could say no to. Her maternal grandmother had been a famous storyteller and had a striking effect on Bauer's early years. "She would tell me stories with five different voices and as many dialects. I would sit on her enormous lap transfixed at how she could teach me about life and make me laugh through her stories. She taught me the significance of humor and how it intersects our daily lives."

Bauer managed an eclectic list of jobs from assistant typing teacher at age twelve to high school waitress. In her early twenties, she was a successful advertising and marketing salesperson. Professional writing for magazines and newspapers followed, then screenwriting, which was cut short by a serious car accident. She regrouped and wroteSquashed, which won the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Five novels for young adult readers have followed:Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road, Backwater and Hope was Here (Newbery Honor Medal).

Joan lives in Darien, CT with her husband and daughter.


"Ivy Breedlove is another strong and quirky heroine who addresses serious issues head on."—The New York Times Book Review

"A fast and funny tale of one big-boned (and big-hearted) gal's summer of discovery on the road."—The Los Angeles Times Book Review


Recommended Reading and Sites

If you enjoyed the works of Joan Bauer, we have some other titles to suggest. In some cases, the recommended books contain good humor, sometimes the related books feature young men facing obstacles in their lives. Finally, some of these books feature heroic females as main characters.

Books to Make You Laugh:

KEEPING THE MOON by Sarah Dessen
Viking Children's Books
HC: 0-670-88549-5, $15.99 ($22.99 CAN)
PB: 0-14-131007-3, $5.99 ($8.99 CAN)

GYPSY RIZKA by Lloyd Alexander
Dutton Children's Books
HC: 0-525-46121-3, $16.99 ($26.99 CAN)
PB: 0-14-130980-6, $4.99 ($6.00 CAN)

Where the Boys Are:

OVER THE WALL by John H. Ritter
Philomel Books
HC: 0-399-23489-6, $17.99 ($25.99 CAN)

BOLTZMON! by William Sleator
Dutton Children's Books
HC: 0-525-46131-0, $15.99 ($24.99 CAN)

Strong Women:

THE OTHER ONES by Jean Thesman
Viking Children's Books
HC: 0-670-88594-0, $15.99 ($22.99 CAN)

CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN by Carol Lynch Williams
G. P. Putnam's Sons
HC: 0-399-23449-7, $16.99 ($23.99 CAN)

DESTINY by Vicki Grove
G. P. Putnam's Sons
HC: 0-399-23449-7, $16.99 ($23.99 CAN)

THE GIRLS by Amy Goldman Koss
Dial Books for Young Readers
HC: 0-8037-2494-2, $16.99 ($25.99 CAN)

Internet Sites of Interest:

Joan Bauer website

The official website of the author.

Virginia Tech Digital Library

Here is an article written by Joan Bauer on writing books with humor entitled "Humor, Seriously."

New York State Library

This will link you to the New York State Library, where you can discover lots of interesting information about the Adirondack Mountains, site of much of the novel, Backwater.

Wisonsin Directory of Attractions

Lots of details about Wisconsin, the setting of Hope Was Here.

Finally, type in the word "shoes" into a search engine and see where the road leads you! Rules of the Road is about finding your own way, after all.



Why is humor so vital to your writing?

Because humor is so vital in my life. When I utilize humor in my writing, I'm connecting to a deep place in myself that says, "no matter how bad things get, there is hope." I believe that with all of my heart. That's what I love about humor—at least the kind that makes us look at life's difficulties differently—laughing in the midst of pain says to me that we are already on the road moving away from it. We're going to make it. I'd like to think that readers connect to that sentiment, too. We need to laugh for so many reasons. It brings perspective; it brings healing; it builds relationships; it brings release. People have asked me if I would ever write a "totally serious book." I have to say that I do write totally serious books that use laughter against the storm of life.

Your novels do deal with serious subjects. How hard is it to walk the fine line between laughter and tragedy?

It's brutal sometimes. I agonize over words, motives. I do not want anyone to think I am making fun of alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, death, divorce, being overweight. But here's the thing: my first drafts are rarely funny and I am grimly sober while writing them. But I am getting down to the serious underpinnings of the story. Then I do look and see where the funny voice can break through. I see where comic relief can cushion a hard scene. I ask myself constantly, where can the humor break forth here and make a point?

How are you like Hope?

I'm hopeful like she is, and I've had to fight to stay that way. It isn't my natural state. I work at hopefulness. I don't expect life to be easy. Like her, I am an over-comer. I had a deep need as a teen to have a healthy father—mine was an alcoholic. I was a waitress as a teen and a good one. I love food; it is a passion for me. I have also had to work on my anger over the years. Hope and I are very alike.

But here is where we are different. I never moved from place to place. I lived with my mom, grandmother, and two sisters in the same house. Hope has a good sense of herself, what she is good at and what she's not. I didn't have that much when I was a teenager.

She is more patient than I and better able to absorb the quirkiness of people around her. One of the things I like bear about her is the fact she has great faith that her father is going to find her and she keeps these scrapbooks for him so that when he finally shows up she'll be ready to tell him about her life. I would have never done that.

What is a typical day at the "office" like for you?

I try to clear my mind for the work ahead. I try to remember what Ernest Hemingway said about writing: Stop for the day when you've written something you feel good about. That makes it easier to get back to it the next morning. I don't wait for inspiration; I just go to work. More and more I read things out loud to check for authenticity of voice. I did that a great deal forHope was Here. One of the big words in my life is "revision." It's kind of like labor and delivery. The baby is coming out and you don't have a lot to say about it.


  1. Titles always hold special significance to the story. For example, how does the title Hope Was Here focus your attention as a reader? Other than the literal reference, what else does the title suggest about the book? Does it tell you the truth? What about the titles of Backwater and Rules of the Road? How does each indicate the literal and symbolic natures of the stories?
  2. Hope's name is pivotal to the development of her character and to the development of the story. How do the various definitions of the word "hope" add to the story? See, for example, the reference made on page 22.
  3. There are other important symbols in this story. What roles do each of the following play in terms of developing character, advancing the plot, or serving as foreshadowing? Are there other symbols essential to the story? If so, what are they?

    · Day lily (page 85)

    · Welcome stairways (page 14)

  4. In each of Bauer's works, it is important to the main character that she provide some sense of comfort to the people she encounters. For Jenna in Rules of the Road, comfort comes in the form of the perfect show for each customer. How does Hope provide that measure of comfort? What does this tell you about her character? How about Ivy Breedlove in Backwater?
  5. Fathers are a central concern to the characters in Hope Was Here, Backwater, and Rules of the Road. Discuss the similarities and differences among the fathers of Hope, Ivy, and Jenna.
  6. Ultimately, all characters leave their mark on us as readers. How does Hope leave her mark literally and figuratively? How do Ivy and Jenna leave their marks?
  7. Why is humor such an essential ingredient in each of Joan Bauer's books? How would the stories change if they were somehow more "serious" in tone? How would your response to the story be affected?
  8. Occasionally, we are swayed to purchase a book because the title is intriguing, Bauer used the title Welcome Stairways as she wrote Hope Was Here. The title changed after the story was completed. What reaction do you have to the working title? Might the working title affect your reaction to the book? What alternative titles might you suggest forRules of the Road and Backwater?

Customer Reviews

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Backwater 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
ERMSMediaCenter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
MickTheChick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been a while since I read this one, but if I remember correctly, it wasn't Joan Bauer's best. That's not to say that it was bad - Joan Bauer is amazing. It's still a cute and different story that's worth a read. :)
ethelmertz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great Joan Bauer novel, quiet, composed, and perfect.
meteowrite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You know, this one didn't grab me at first, the way most of Joan Bauer's stuff does. The cover is great. I'm not sure I believe that the aunt could be living way far from civilization in a place that could be hiked to in one day, in the winter. That seemed odd. But the last third of the story brought it home. I loved the scene where Ivy is standing in the middle of a frozen lake, hauling her wounded aunt on a sled, following her aunt's wolf, and her nature guide is shouting from the bank, "What's your situation?" I laughed out loud.
slightlyfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, in my opinion, is one of her best. I for some reason really connected with this book. Maybe it was because my grandparents have a ranch and I could really imagine what she was talking about.Memorable story. Good characters. Fast read. Good stuff.
relientkatie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In honor of her Aunt Tib¿s eightieth birthday, Ivy Breedlove is trying to compile a family history. But in a family full of argumentative lawyers, very few have time to talk about the past. Then Ivy discovers that her long-lost Aunt Josephine is still alive, living in seclusion in a small cabin in the Adirondacks. In search of this missing piece of her history, Ivy sets off to find Jo with the help of a slogan-spouting guide called Mountain Mama. I first read "Backwater" during my sophomore year of high school, and I like it as much now as I did then. Ivy is a fun narrator who has many dimensions, even in her single-mindedness, and many teens will be able to relate to her as she struggles to find a place in her family. Bauer's writing is both humorous and subtly thought-provoking. Some may find that the ending was too happy too quickly and think it¿s unrealistic - but I didn¿t! I'd recommend it for girls ages 10-16.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please read my amazing review for this book. This book is kind've boring at the beginning, but gets better at the middle when the real adventure happens. Ivy goes on this daring adventure through the wilderness, with a companion, and goes out in search of her hermit aunt. When she gets there, she has another adventure and(spoiler alert) Ivy, toward the ebnd, gets closer to her aunt and she realises they have a lot in common. So why don't you go and buy this book? Why are you still reading my review. Go… Get… This… BOOK! NOW!!!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book for anybody of any age. It has good lessons, AMAZING characters, and the storyline is so good that its hard to put down. Definitely read this boook! Im serious!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome i loved it. it made me cry because i really felt connected to ivy and jo. BUY THIS BOOK IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maranna More than 1 year ago
The Main character in Backwater, Ivy Breedlove is on a mission to find information on her family tree. In order for her to complete this she needs to find her aunt Josephine, who left the family years before. For Ivy to find her aunt she needs to go on a hike in the woods to Josephine’s cabin. When her and the tourist guide get to Josephine’s cabin Ivy convinces her to let her stay for two days so she can ask her questions about her life. On the night before Ivy’s last day with aunt Josephine, a bad winter storm comes and causes a tragedy to happen to Ivy and Aunt Josephine. I would recommend Backwater because of the way it grabs your attention from the very beginning of the story. The moral of the story is to be who you want to be, and not what other people are influencing you to be. The suspense in the book will keep you reading until you finish the book.
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Annagurl More than 1 year ago
This book is one that I will always read over and over. It has great characters and a wonderful plot. Deffinetly one to help find yourself with. Joan Bauer's books are incredible. Read it! Read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first picked this up in the bookstore, and for the first 30 pages, I was hooked. This portion contained several great quotes without being too preachy. I found myself drawn into the story of a teenage girl who doesn't fit in with her family. In particular, I felt that the relationship between strong-minded Mr. Breedlove and the quietly convicted Ivy was well-drawn. Around the time of Ivy's journey, however, the novel weakened. I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief that a woman could tame wild birds and build a cabin all on her own. Also, as much as I liked the character of Mountain Mama, she seemed to just spout platitudes all the time, and she never made one mistake. A flaw in character or judgement would've made her more human. Even worse, several aspects of Ivy's story were abandoned. I wanted to see more interaction between her and her father and Egan, as these were two of her strongest relationships. Excerpts of her history project would've made the plot seem more real. I think Ivy could've experienced her revelation in other more, believable ways. For example, what if she had caught her aunt bringing the wreaths to the cemetery? While this novel began with great potential, several relationships were not fully developped in the book. A little editing and revision could've gone a long way...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was heart warming in every way. The emotional parts were very sad and ....the book was awesome.I recommend this book to every one who is into mild adventure and standing up to people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is an awesome book. Actually, that's mostly because of how well I relate to it. I love to be alone and it's nice to read about someone else like that. If you don't like it, I think it's because you just don't get it. But when you understand, Backwater is an awesome book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a good light read. It kept me interested in what was about to happen and the secrets that Aunt Josephine held. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in something riveting yet not too emotional. I've become a Joan Bauer fan by reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think that this book had a good story line or ended well. It sort of seemed as if the snow storm and the cabin damage was like Bauer's way to attempt to save the story....better luck next time, Joan!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, not only because it had a good and captivating plot, but also because of many great quotes and hidden messages. It's a really great book about finding the missing piece, dealing with your surroundings, and finding inner strength. Backwater is a great book and I can't wait to read more of this author's books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It's really neat. Ivy is really smart and brave and Aunt Jo is cool. I like birds too, but Jo overdoes it a bit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is such a well put together book that it takes up in and you can't get out until the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my summer reading. I absolutely loved it, it took my less than 2 days to read. I connected to the main character Ivy right away. If your family every drives you crazy or you've ever wished to be understood then look no farther than this book- it's perfect for you. I would recommend this book to everyone I know. Joan Bauer writes awesome books, and I'm reading more of her books now. Once you read Backwater there's no turning back, you'll be hooked on Joan Bauer's books.