Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Jennifer L. Holm, is the winner of three Newbery Honor Medals for Our Only May Amelia in 2000, Penny from Heaven in 2007 and Turtle in Paradise in 2011. She and her brother, Matthew Holm, are also the creators of the HUGELY popular graphic novel series, Babymouse! and the spin off series, Squish (reviews of books #1 and #5 here). The series debuted in 2005 with Babymouse: Queen of the World. The 18th book in the series, Happy Birthday, Babymouse, is due out in April of 2014. As a bookseller, I watched this series fly off the shelves. As a volunteer reading tutor in a second grade class, I watched struggling students, mostly girls but also boys, embrace Babymouse! and feel excited to read, often for the first time. As a mother, I was ecstatic when my youngest stepped up from beginning to read books to the Squish series. I even caught him reading as he was walking home from school one day!

So what is so great about Babymouse! and Squish? In Babymouse, the Holms have created a character who is a bit of an underdog, a character who wants to be accepted by the "popular" kids and a mouse who has a fantastic imagination and a great best friend in her buddy and fellow monster movie enthusiast, Wilson Weasel. Also, Babymouse LOVES cupcakes and the little pink heart that is near the hem of all her dresses. Babymouse is funny, silly and sometimes fierce, but above all else, she is thoughtful.

In Babymouse: Queen of the World, Babymouse discovers the Felicia Furrypaws is having a sleepover party and she is not invited. Desperate to get in on what she is sure will be a fantastic party, Babymouse faces some tough choices and I think this is another reason that readers love Babymouse and Squish. Kids love seeing characters in a tight spot and the Holms have a brilliant, subtle way of putting their characters in realistic situations that make them think and act, and not always in the best way possible. Equally, the Holms also have a wonderful way of showing their characters working through these tough situations and making the right choice in the end. The Holms also do a superb job of capturing the school setting, making it feel real and just a little bit more-than-real at just the right times. Babymouse gives her book report to Felicia in exchange for an invitation to her party and breaks her plans to watch "Attack of the Giant Squid" at Wilson's. Once she gets to the party, things aren't quite as fun as she had imagined. The girls just want to talk and do their whiskers and paint their nails. Bored and bumbling, Babymouse scorches the rug when she drops the curling iron and covers Felicia in nail polish while trying to open the bottle. When she overhears Felicia calling Wilson a doofus, she realizes what she has done and rushes out the door to make things right!

Both Babymouse and Squish are characters I am happy for my kids to spend time with. I don't have to worry about them picking up sass or snark and I know that, while being completely entertained, they are also learning little lessons...  One book that especially hit home in my house was Squish: Game On!. When Squish's dad gives him money for his birthday, he plans to spend it on a new comic book and a trip to a comic convention where he and his dad plan to dress up like their favorite characters and spend the rest of his money. But, Squish changes his mind and spends his money on the hot new video game that his friends are playing. Besides getting sucked into the game and spending all his free time (and not so free time) playing it, Squish doesn't get his book report turned in on time and he gets a D. How mom, dad, Squish and his teacher handle all this is brilliant!

Holm is also the author of the very cool Year-Told-Thru Stuff series, featuring Ginny Davis, which is sort of like a graphic novel but with photographs of the stuff of life instead of illustrations. Holm collaborates with Elicia Castaldi to tell the story of Ginny's life through collage art and comic strips by Matthew Holm.

 and coming in April of 2014, 

Babymouse #1 - #16

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