Meet a Children’s Book Author: Jennifer L. Holm

ideal-bookshelfWelcome to the first in a series of blog posts I’ve created to introduce you to various children’s book authors. There are a lot of great ones out there and it’s worth knowing about them. Who knows, you may find yourself reading some really great (children’s) literature.

I recently had a chance to meet some children’s book authors at the Children’s Literature Conference held at Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a pleasure to meet Jennifer L. Holm that day. Here’s a little about her for your edification:

jenniholmJennifer was born in California and lived for a short time on Whidbey Island. She spent most of her growing up years in Audobon, Pennsylvania. Constantly reading as a child, her favorite author was Lloyd Alexander. She was a broadcast producer at an advertising agency in New York City before she took up writing and quickly received three Newbery Honor Awards for historical fiction novels. Holm currently lives in California with her husband and two young children where she loves to write in her slippers and pajamas while her children are at school.

index (10)Holm started writing with a series about Boston Jane. Sixteen-year-old Jane Peck has ventured to the unknown wilds of the Northwest to wed her childhood idol, William Baldt. But her impeccable training at Miss Hepplewhite’s Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia is hardly preparation for the colorful characters and crude life that she finds in the Washington Territory. Having to rely upon her wits in the wild, Jane must determine for herself whether she is truly proper Miss Jane Peck of Philadelphia, faultless young lady and fiance, or Boston Jane, as the Chinook dub her, fearless and loyal woman of the frontier.

index (23)Our Only May Amelia is based upon Holm’s great-aunt Alice Amelia Holm’s diary. She was a Finnish-American girl born on the Nasel River in Washington state during the nineteenth century. Mae Amelia is the only girl in a family with seven brothers and has many great adventures. You certainly will enjoy this book set in Washington state. In fact, the city of Lacey, Washington recently used this novel as their “Everyone Reads” choice.

index (24)Holm recommended that you learn from her mistake and write a novel about your mother’s side of the family before you focus on your father’s side, as she did in Mae Amelia. Thus came the inspiration for Penny from Heaven. It’s 1953 and eleven year old Penny dreams of a summer of ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing is that simple for Penny. She can’t go swimming because her mother is afraid that she’ll catch polio at the pool. This is a shinning story about the everyday and the extraordinary, about a time in America’s history when being Italian meant you were the enemy. But mostly, it’s a story about family. This is a book my mother-in-law would enjoy! You may also.

index (25)Turtle in Paradise, another Newbery honor book, is inspired by stories of Holm’s great-grandmother who immigrated to Key West at the turn of the last century. It’s 1935 and Turtle heads off to Key West Florida to live with relatives that she’s never met. It’s hot and strange, with wild jungle peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happening, Turtle finds herself coming out of her shell (!) and the world opens up in unexpected ways.

It would be easy to typecast Holm as a historical fiction writer since she has written this slew of great historic fiction novels. But WAIT! There’s more! She has broken any expectations that hold her to that single genre with her two graphic novel series.

Growing up with four brothers, Holm’s family devoured comic books. She, however, was bothered by the representation (of lack thereof) of girls and women in these stories and decided to do something about it. Babymouse was born, introducing a likeable character who is strong-willed, risk-taking, funny, and impulsive. Her brother, Matt Holm, is the illustrator of these pink-tinted comics that cause readers to read one after another.

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The Holm siblings also collaborate on Squish, a baseball-capped amoeba who leaves readers chuckling while also learning a few science related ideas. Holm creates mice and amoebas (as well as people) that captivate young readers in these graphic novel series.

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Stay tuned for her upcoming middle grade novel coming out later this year, The Fourteenth Goldfish, where she and Grandpa Melvin explore the wonders of science and raise big questions about family and friendship, life and death.

You can find most of Jennifer L. Holm’s books here at the Everett Public Library. Come on down and borrow a few!

Best of 2012: Found in the Children’s Section

Today’s list includes ninja pigs, Dinotruxs, groovy buttons and crazy concoctions. As you might have guessed, it is our choices for the best in children’s books for 2012.

Picture Books

Revenge of the Dinotrux by Chris Gall
Creatures that are part dinosaur and part truck escape the museum and cause havoc all over town. They create hilarious trouble for adults, and only children can tame them. Great word play and wild illustrations make this story a delight for read-aloud. –Esta

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor
Nancy wants a lead part in her ballet school show, but she ends up chosen to be a tree. She struggles with jealousy when her friend, Bree, gets to be a mermaid. Nancy comes up with a great way to add sparkle to her life, and the illustrations add to the playful and sweet feeling of this book. – Esta

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Three pigs take martial arts training and are ready to match a very tricky wolf. Bold, dramatic illustrations and story give kids many laughs…and an introduction to the discipline of martial arts. –Esta

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket the dog loves to read, and he collects words on paper slips that he hopes to piece together into a fantastic story. His friends surprise him, and suddenly he has a superb idea. A comforting, gentle story that praises reading and creativity. –Esta

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
Pete the cat has a cool shirt with multi-colored big buttons, and it makes him so happy that he creates a song. The buttons pop off one by one, but Pete still finds joy and sings his way through it all. Vivid color illustrations in bold paint strokes capture the adventures of this little cat who has an endless sense of humor and fun. –Esta

Mossy by Jan Brett
Mossy the turtle has moss growing on her shell, and soon a whole colorful garden sprouts on her back. She is so special that a biologist takes her to live in a museum, but one little girl can sense how Mossy longs to get back home to Lilypad Pond. Lush, detailed illustrations capture the beauty of the landscape, and the story’s ending packs a sweet surprise. –Esta

Chapter Books

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
When Clara vanishes after the puppeteer Grisini and two orphaned assistants were at her birthday party, suspicion of kidnapping chases the trio away from London. The orphans are caught in a trap set by Grisini’s rival with a deadly inheritance to shed. Angie on GoodReads characterized this book as ‘When a Dickensian Hansel and Gretel meet up with Sara Crewe in a Pinocchio story by Stephen King…’ Yep, that covers it. –Andrea

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
7th-grader Georges adjusts to moving to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building. Jennifer Hubert from GoodReads says ‘Rebecca Stead’s books are like an onion–as the layers are peeled away and the characters reveal their secrets, the reader is left with a shiny nugget of essential truth.’ I couldn’t describe Stead’s writing any better. –Andrea

A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner
Time has gone wrong, and best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, together with the young Hystorian Riq, must use the infinity ring to travel back to one of the Great Breaks–a mutiny on the Santa María–to correct history and defeat the SQ. History can be difficult the way we currently study it, but what if we could travel in time and change what everyone thinks they know? –Andrea

Nonfiction

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures by Jordan D. Brown.
Swimming raisins, glow-in-the-dark Jell-O, and fake blood are just some of the silly projects and experiments in this introductory chemistry book. Silly illustrations and comments make the scientific explanations of each entry more palatable. The experiments are intriguing to budding scientists and use ingredients commonly found in a kitchen. –Theresa

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean.
When Luciano Anastasini fell from the high wire, it seemed that his days as a circus performer were over. Luciano could imagine no other life, so he decided to put together a dog act, not with purebred dogs, but with mutts rescued from the shelter. It is a heartwarming tale of a man who wouldn’t give up on himself or the dogs whose behavior “problems” became assets to his act. The color photographs of Anastasini and his dogs will delight any dog lover or circus fan. –Theresa

National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas by Crispin Boyer.
Road trip ahead, or armchair traveling, this atlas won’t disappoint the young geographer. Each state is illustrated by a map showing major roads, towns, and geographic features with colorful pictures highlighting points of interest. Each state’s two-page spread includes a “Boredom Buster,” a suggestion of an activity one could do in the car while passing through. Odd traffic laws, miscellaneous facts, and quirky roadside attractions add special interest and humor for the trip. –Theresa

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.

Make a Splash – Read this Summer!

Everett Public Library has a great Summer Reading Program for kids. To promote summer reading, librarians visit the surrounding elementary and middle schools. Prior to these school visits, we read stacks of new fiction, picture books and nonfiction to select titles that we think will appeal to kids. During school visits, we find that some books are consistently popular while others that we thought would be popular turn out to be duds!

Here is a list of the hits so far:

We’ve found that the more gross a book is, the more kids like it.  100% Pure Fake has recipes for rotting skin, snot and vomit so it fits the bill!  In the same vein is 100 Most Disgusting Things on the Planet.

Books about animals are also popular. Dewey the Library Cat, Panda Kindergarten, and Winter’s Tail are three true-life stories that will enchant younger readers. Some of the fiction titles about animals are:  Cat Diaries:  secret writings of the MEOW Society (short stories written by individual cats); The Fast and the Furriest about a couch potato dog that decides to become the best agility dog around; and, The Best Horse Ever about a young girl who longs for a horse of her own and what happens when her wish comes true. 

Mysteries always fill a niche and Mary Downing Hahn and Peg Kehret never fail to deliver. Closed for the Season tells the story of Logan and his family who have moved into an old house. Logan discovers that a woman was murdered in his house and decides, with the help of his neighbor, Arthur, to investigate. Runaway Twin is the story of Sunny, who decides to cross the country in order to find her twin sister from whom she’s been separated for over ten years.

Fantasy fans will enjoy Cosmic. Liam, who is only twelve but is often mistaken for an adult, decides to take advantage of this fact and ends up with an out of this world experience. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is the story of Minli, whose parents are so desperately poor they can barely eke out a living. Minli’s father brightens each evening with stories and these stories inspire Minli to go on an exciting but dangerous adventure in order to help her family. Interweaving this enchanting tale are short stories based on Chinese folktales that make this beautifully illustrated book a delight to read.

Other titles that my co-workers recommend are Shark Vs Train an imaginative and funny picture book where a shark and a train compete in a series of contests. Finally, a sequel to 11 Birthdays, is a story about Rory who has a list of things to do when she turns 12 but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Last but not least, Big Nate, the first book in a series, uses both prose and cartoons to tell about a middle school student and a day in his disorganized life.

These are just some of the many and varied titles our library owns, so bring your school age readers and pre-readers to the library and let them join in the fun of summer reading!

Suzanne