Squish: Super Amoeba, written and illustrated by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm, 90 pp, RL 1.5

Before I tell you just how great her graphic novels are, I have to tell you that Jennifer L Holm is the author of eleven books, three of which are Newbery Honor titles - Our Only May Amelia, Penny from Heaven and Turtle in Paradise. Besides the hugely popular Babymouse series of graphic novels, which are to reluctant and emerging girl readers what Captain Underpants is for boys, and the spinoff, Squish, she is the author of the very cool novel with lots of graphics, Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf.

Babymouse: Queen of the World was published in 2005 and I remember getting a lot of mileage out of it back when I was a reading tutor for second graders. Girls were (and are) crazy about these books, which now total fifteen with number sixteen, Babymouse for President, due July, 2012. Babymouse is brave, creative and adventure prone. But, best of all, her books are ALL PINK! That is, except for Babymouse: Mad Scientist, #14, in which we meet Squish, the amoeba. While working on her science fair project, Babymouse scoops up some pond water to observe under a microscope and that's when Squish brings the green to the scene! This is great for boys, however, as an observant bookseller, I happen to know that there are plenty of boys who read Babymouse books regardless of the presence of a green single-celled organism. In fact, after devouring Squish: Super Amoeba, my seven year old son was very interested to learn that he burst forth from another series of graphic novels and was not put off by the title or color of the Babymouse series in the least.
A single celled organism, Squish is pretty simple. He likes to eat Twinkies and read his comic book, The Adventures of Super Amoeba. At school, his best friends are the lunch money mooching, future genius scientist, Pod and Peggy, a super cute ray of sunshine who also has a new pet slime mold named Fluffy. Squish also has a well meaning dad who threatens to offer advice but usually just offers lunch money. When Lynwood, the paramecia eating school bully, sets his sights on Peggy, Squish gives up his lunch and his test answers to save her. Knowing that what he is doing is wrong, Squish agonizes over his dilemma and looks to Super Amoeba for answers. When Mr Rotifer, their science teacher, notices some funny business going on, he gives Squish a warning that makes his life even more complicated. Fortunately, a very simple slime mold (also known as Fluffy) takes care of Lynwood just in the nick of time. At the end of the book, Pod shares a science experiment (how to make mold) and Peggy shares tips on how to draw Squish. Jennifer and Matthew Holm have combined all things that emerging readers love in this new series: interesting characters who just might be a little bit gross, a super hero, a bully, science (which they slip into the story line much like Jessica Seinfeld slips spinach into desserts) and a little bit of fun.

In book two, Squish: Brave New Pond, Squish has a new set of bullies to deal with - the Algae Brothers, who are super cool and produce oxygen. Compared to the Algae Brothers, Pod and Peggy start to seem a little last year so Squish sets himself some goals, including sitting with the cool kids and lunch. At the same time Squish's comic book hero, Super Amoeba, is facing a similar quandary when the Protozoans, the world's greatest crime fighting team, ask him to join their ranks. When the Algae Brothers try to get Squish to humiliate Pod, he begins to have second thoughts about his goals. And, in an exciting twist, Squish decides who his real friends are just in time to avoid the arrival of a deadly asteroid that Pod has been predicting (using his mad science skills) all along. Like the drummers for the band Spinal Tap, the bad guys in Squish don't seem to last more than one book...

Squish: Brave New Pond ends with instructions on how to make slime out of cornstarch from Pod and tips from Peggy on how to draw the Algae Brothers. After working his way through our pile of TOON Books, my son gobbled these books up. I even saw him walking home from school and reading at the same time, a trick I thought only I had mastered!

Coming May 2012!!! Squish: The Power of the Parasite

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