When Ruth Keller (precocious, intrepid journalist, 12 years old) stumbles upon a strange substance floating in the waters of the local lake while fishing with a friend, her reporter instincts take over. Suspecting it to be some sort of toxic waste, she sets out to investigate its possible origins, steadily sharing her findings with the subscribers of her newsletter (the 𝙲𝚘𝚘𝙾𝙾𝚘𝙾𝙾𝙾𝙻𝚜𝙻𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚛). Thanks to the instruction and insight of Sara, her brother’s new girlfriend who also happens to be an intern at the New York Times), Ruth’s coverage soon starts to get wider attention, bringing with it a slew of obstacles that only make the young journalist’s increasingly dogged pursuit even more complicated. The budding reporter of Twin Oaks is nothing if not determined, however, and is willing to do whatever it takes to leak out the truth and expose those who obscure it.⠀
If you’re still looking for a relevant read for this year’s Earth Day, you really can’t do better than picking up The Leak. Writer Kate Reed Petty and artist Andrea Bell have produced a truly excellent middle grade graphic novel that deals with a small town’s water crisis analogous to the very real calamity that has been plaguing the Michigan city of Flint for nearly a decade now, and the book is, naturally, dedicated to the people living there.
The bureaucratic nonsense that enables the human rights violation in Flint is too needlessly complex for a single comic to untangle, but the spirit of the city’s local leaders, community organizers — and, of course the persistent journalists — whose work helped put this emergency on a national stage is honored in this work through characters who are similarly willing to stand up and rage against the machine that allows injustices like this to happen in the first place. The Leak reminds us that voices and stories have power. And it shows us how enough people using their voices to yell out their stories can, if they are loud enough, if they are true enough, change a town. Or a city. Or the world.
One of my favorite reads of 2021 so far. Not only due to Petty’s wonderful writing, but also because of Bell’s artwork, which I loved. I saw it as a mix between Kayla Miller’s style in her Click books and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s simplified, practically chibi illustrations in Seconds. So good.