Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jennifer L. Holm did my homework!

Maryland Newsline image-and article

Well, not really but she made it easy.  When asked, as part of my UNI Children's Literature class this summer, to pick an author out of a list of many interesting authors I picked her.  Even though she's been on my radar I haven't read anything of hers and it was time.

Jennifer had what sounds like an idyllic childhood.  Her father was a pediatric doctor and her mother was a nurse.  She had four sporty brothers and she did her best to keep up with them.  She read voraciously even, as one neighbor noted, she raked the yard.  It seems that she easily carried her passions into her desire to write.  Each of her young female characters are gutsy and refuse to be pigeon-holed into the idea of women in their time period.

1. Our Only May Amelia (1999) It isn't easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899, but it's particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement.  With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can't seem to abide her family's insistence that she behave like a Proper Young Lady.  Not when there's fishing to be done, sheep to be herded, and real live murderers to be captured!  May is sure she could manage better if only there were at least one other girl living along the banks of the Nasel River.  An now that Mama's going to have a baby, maybe there's hope...(from author website)
This is a quick read filled with fun adventures.Getting to know her brothers, neighbors and relatives was part of the joy of this story. May  Amelia is a character I will remember.  This book was transformed into a play by the Seattle Children's Theatre-would love to have seen it.

2. Turtle In Paradise (2010) Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple.  She's smart and tough and seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending.  After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce.  So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.  
Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen.  It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure.  Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. (from author website)
While Turtle is another very high-spirited character compared to May Amelia she is very different and world-wise. I loved the beach setting and the very unique Key West culture and language.  Her boy cousins and their baby business was hysterical!

3. Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf (2007) Ginny has ten items on her big to-do list for 7th grade. None of them, however, include turning her hair pink. Or getting sent to detention for throwing frogs in class. Or losing the lead role in the ballet recital to her ex-best friend.  Or the thousand other things that can go wrong between September and June. But it looks like it is shaping up to be that kind of a year.  (from author's website)
See this is how you know an author is multi-talented...dropping into a whole new genre and doing it well!  This is part realistic fiction, part journal and a great peek at middle school.  Ginny is brave and bold and can clearly state that her dad died and she's looking for a new one.  This book is filled with fun notes between Ginny and her mom, movie receipts, drug store necessities, homework assignments and all this  great middle grade angst.

Babymouse (2005 and beyond)  This is a pink comic book (not just for girls though) about a funny little girl mouse who's in elementary school.  I'd like to read the whole set but haven't yet; the one I read (Heartbreaker) is about going to the Valentine's Day dance.  Babymouse can't find anyone to take her even though her best friend is available. I have Groovy Girl hooked on these now.  This series, to me, defined Jennifer L. Holm as an above average creative force;  the mouse put me over the moon!

Jennifer lives in Northern California with her husband and two children, Millie and Will.  She loved Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series and now I have this on my radar to read.

Babymouse has her own website-must introduce my students to this!



Sarah said...

I love Jennifer Holm! I've read almost all of her books. You have to read Penny From Heaven, that one is my favorite of hers.

TheBookGirl said...

I'm not familiar with this author, but Turtle in Paradise sounds very good to me -- I like the Key West setting and the time period of the 1930s.