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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Leak

The Leak

Written by Kate Reed Petty; illustrated by Andrea Bell

First Second


In this compelling middle-grade graphic novel The Leak, Ruth, a young journalist, is determined to uncover a secret that threatens her town.

Ruth Keller is brash and precocious; she argues with her dentist, her parents, and her teachers. So, when she discovers a strange black slime in the man-made lake of her suburban neighborhood, she decides to investigate. Fortified by the encouragement of those around her, Ruth seeks the truth at all costs, even if it means taking on the rich local country club owner, who she believes is responsible for the pollution.

Between the teasing of former friends, and a sudden viral spotlight, Ruth discovers how difficult it is for a journalist to take a stand for what's right in the face of critique and controversy. From writer Kate Reed Petty and illustrator Andrea Bell, comes a story about corruption, pollution, and freedom of the press, and the young journalist at the center of it all.

Praise for The Leak

"Ruthie’s quest for answers and justice offers the pleasures of a Carl Hiaasen eco-mystery, with smart, determined kids at the helm, respectful adults in supporting roles...and shady corporate suits and selfish politicians as hiss-worthy villains. The graphic novel format, ably bolstered by Bell’s spot-on illustration of middle school emotions and milieu, will draw a diverse readership."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Bell’s color-drenched panels, lined in crayonlike textures, portray confident Ruth as a biracial heroine who chases down leads and navigates the murky waters of middle school relationships."—Publisher's Weekly

"Bell’s rounded figures, sun-dappled scenes, and warm palette of colors are in striking contrast to the rather serious stakes of the story, and that approachable look will help give this an even wider audience. ...this is a surprisingly deep dive into investigative journalism that will appeal to fans of classic middle-school drama. "—Booklist, starred review

"An engaging, empowering tale of journalistic activism and ecological awareness."—Kirkus

"An absorbing work that emphasizes that even the youngest voices can have a resounding impact."—School Library Journal


Written by Kate Reed Petty; illustrated by Andrea Bell

Kate Reed Petty lives in Baltimore. Her fiction has appeared in Electric Literature, American Short Fiction, and more, and her short films have appeared in Narrative magazine and at the Maryland Film Festival. She is also the author of the novel True Story, published by Viking in 2020.

Andrea Bell is an illustrator and comic artist living in Chicago through the best and worst seasons. In 2013 she earned her BFA in Illustration from Columbia College Chicago and has since self-published "Fair Voyage" and "Still Waiting." Today Andrea works as a freelance illustrator and in her free time enjoys rock climbing, curating playlists, video games, and a warm meme on a cold day.

image of Andrea Bello
Jim Vondruska

First Second

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