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Topic 2: Realism, Romance, & Censorship

Paula's Young Adult Literature Website

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Bauer, Joan. 1992. SQUASHED. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 039923750X.


Set in rural Iowa, sixteen-year-old Ellie Morgan has two main goals; she wants to grow the largest pumpkin in Iowa and she wants to lose twenty pounds.  Joan Bauer has humorously and skillfully created and interesting plot around the spirit of a young girl’s passion to win the Rock River Pumpkin Contest and capture the heart of Wes, the new boy in town.  Ellie’s pumpkin, Max, needs to gain 200 more pounds to beat her arch enemy Cyril Pool in the local contest.  Ellie battles insects, drought, cold, rot, and even pumpkin thieves to protect her prize winning pumpkin.  Ellie’s widowed father is less than supportive of her obsessive efforts with Max.  “Dad’s voice broke into my creative cocoon.  ‘Ellie!’ he yelled.  ‘Do you know what time it is?’  I didn’t, but guessed he would tell me.  ‘It’s ten o’clock, young woman, and you’re out here sitting with … vegetation.’  He said ‘vegetation’ like what he really meant was ‘lepers.’”  However, Ellie’s grandmother encourages her and helps keep her in touch with the land that has been in their family for years and with the passion her mother had for growing things.  Bauer also weaves a problem that many girls can identify with into the plot line.  Ellie struggles with her weight.  She would like to lose twenty pounds and gain the courage to talk to Wes, a young boy with similar interests.  As the story unfolds Wes and Ellie become friends and he gives Ellie constant encouragement and advice on helping Max become a prize winning pumpkin.  This book about friendship, blossoming romance, and accomplishment should be very appealing to young readers.  “This laugh-out-loud story is a delight…Ellie proves herself an all-around winner.  So is Max and so is this book.”  School Library Journal



Joan Bauer has woven a story with a humorous and fast paced plot line involving agriculture, weight gain, and romance.  The characters are strong, believable, and well developed.  Bauer has created a unique heroine in Ellie that is both determined and successful.  As Ellie strives to grow the largest pumpkin, the themes of patience, perseverance, and determination leave the reader with a sense of strength and a can-do attitude.  This is a very uplifting story that readers will certainly enjoy and many may relate to in various ways.





Topic 2: Annie on My Mind

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