At a time when fake news accusations are more common, it is important for children to understand how journalism works. Even though it is a fictional graphic novel, The Leak, written by Kate Reed Petty and illustrated by Andrea Bell, provides an example of the difficulties and rewards of journalism. The novel’s young protagonist has the determination of a professional journalist as she copes with the struggles of school, family life, and the controversies that linger in her small town.
Ruth Keller is a young journalist looking for the next big story. She is glued to anything newsworthy and keeps the public informed with her online newsletter the CoolsLetter. So, when she finds a mysterious black slime near her local lake, she begins to investigate and report her findings. But just like any other news reporter, she is met with criticism from adults, especially from local business owners and friends. Now she has to investigate the situation further and uncover the real story, improving her skills as a journalist along the way.
From following Ruth’s reporting and experiences, readers learn about the role of a journalist and how to be involved in their community. They see the importance of accurate reporting and sources and how adults can be truthful or liars when it comes to a serious matter. Not only that, they will understand her struggles with friends, crushes, and family, especially when they take little interest in her discoveries. References to Flint, Michigan will encourage readers to investigate the town and how reporters played an important role in raising awareness of their water problem. Writer Petty includes a narration by Ruth in order for the reader to understand her struggles and growth as she digs deeper. Illustrator Bell has created a colorful cast of characters with multiple panels that move the story along. The diverse cast express their intentions and emotions vividly with their actions and facial expressions. Panels with a single-color background and a horrified solid color character are used during scenes of revelations while dark shadows and hues are used to indicate nighttime. Combing the duo’s talents creates a well written story with visuals that enhance the drama and the action within each scene.
The Leak is a graphic novel for readers who want to help their community or perhaps interested in journalism. It will show them the hardships of news reporters, tempered with a spunky protagonist, and they will definitely want to see how she overcomes obstacles in her search for the truth. Public and school libraries should have a copy on their shelves, especially those who assist children in 4th-6th grade and middle school students.
By Kate Reed Petty
Art by Andrea Bell
First Second, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)