Holm, Jennifer L. 1968(?)–
Holm, Jennifer L. 1968(?)–
(Holm and Hamel, a joint pseudonym)
PERSONAL: Born c. 1968, in CA; daughter of William W. (a pediatrician) and Beverly A. (a pediatric nurse) Holm; married Jonathan Hamel (a computer programmer and writer), 1999; children: Will. Education: Dickinson College, B.A., 1990.
CAREER: Broadcast producer and writer. Ogilvy and Mather (advertising agency), New York, NY, producer of television commercials, music videos, and promotional materials, 1990–c. 2001.
AWARDS, HONORS: Parents' Choice silver award, and Best Book of the Year designation, Publishers Weekly, both 1999, Newbery Honor Award, Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for the Social Studies, all 2000, and Utah Book Award, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award master list inclusion, both 2000–01, all for Our Only May Amelia; Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award, ALA Best Book for Young Adults citation, and Book Sense 76 Pick, all for Boston Jane: An Adventure.
Our Only May Amelia, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Boston Jane: An Adventure, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
The Creek (horror; for young adults), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Boston Jane: The Claim, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Baby Mouse: Queen of the World! (picture book), illustrated by Matthew Holm, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Baby Mouse: Our Hero! (graphic novel), illustrated by Matthew Holm, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
"STINK FILES" SERIES; WITH JONATHAN HAMEL UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM HOLM AND HAMEL
The Postman Always Brings Mice, illustrated by Brad Weinman, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
To Scratch a Thief, illustrated by Brad Weinman, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
You Only Have Nine Lives, illustrated by Brad Weinman, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
ADAPTATIONS: Our Only May Amelia was adapted for the stage and performed at the Seattle Children's Theatre, 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Eighth Graders Are Stupid (graphic novel), for Atheneum, 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: Children's book author Jennifer L. Holm has always loved reading. "One of our neighbors said recently that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I read a book with the other!," she admitted on her home page. Beginning her career penning Boston Jane: An Adventure and other works of historical fiction for middle-grade readers, Holm has also collaborated with her husband, Jonathan Hamel, to create the well-received "Stink Files" series featuring a feline version of James Bond.
While attending Dickinson College, Holm studied international relations, and in an effort to lighten the intellectual load, during her senior year she decided to audit a class in writing short stories. Her interest in writing was again sparked several years later, when Holm received an unusual Christmas present: a typed copy of a diary her great-aunt, Alice Amelia Holm, had kept as a teenager. One of Holm's aunts had found the diary among her grandmother's things, transcribed it, and sent copies to family members.
Alice Amelia Holm lived in rural Washington state in the early 1900s. While her life was a far cry from the suburban, 1970s upbringing Holm herself enjoyed, Holm realized that the teen's diary "wasn't any different from what I could have written when I was that age," as she told Publishers Weekly interviewer Ingrid Roper. "It got me thinking what it would be like to grow up as I did with brothers but out in the middle of nowhere in a wilderness at a very exciting time."
Holm's first book, Our Only May Amelia, grew out of these thoughts. Like Holm, May Amelia is the only girl in a family full of boys; May has six brothers to Holm's four. May Amelia is the first girl to be born in a fledgling village along Washington's Nasel River. At age twelve she is—like Holm at that age—quite a tomboy, much to the despair of those who are trying to raise her to be a proper young lady. May's fictitious diary reveals much about turn-of-the-twentieth century pioneer life, including the dangers from wild animals and the hard work that went into performing basic household chores. Despite all the hardships, the girl's "mischievous spirit adds many amusing moments," Barbara Wysocki noted in the School Library Journal. The young narrator also paints vivid portraits of her numerous family and neighbors in her diary: Holm has an "uncanny ability to give each of the siblings—and a wide range of adults—a distinctive character while maintaining May Amelia's spunky narrative voice," noted a Publishers Weekly critic.
Holm describes the lives of pioneers living in Washington state during the 1850s in her next three books, which form the "Boston Jane" trilogy. Jane's mother died when she was young, and her father let her run wild for many years. Then, at age eleven, Jane took the advice of William, one of her father's apprentices, and enrolled at Miss Hepplewhite's Young Ladies Academy to learn proper etiquette. In the first volume of the series, An Adventure, Jane is aged fifteen. William, who has in the interim moved to Washington Territory, writes and asks her to come to Washington and marry him. Jane agrees, but quickly finds that her finishing-school lessons have not prepared her for the experience. Booklist reviewer Kay Weisman praised Holm's "strong characterizations [and] meticulous attention to historical details," and School Library Journal contributor Janet Hilbun wrote that "the author's portrayal of pioneer/Chinook relationships is sympathetic."
Holm's first book to be set in modern times is The Creek. Described by Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin as a mystery containing the "trappings of a creepy thriller that push[es] the story well beyond the wan child-plays-detective stuff so prevalent in youth mysteries," The Creek follows the return of delinquent teen Caleb Devlin to a Philadelphia suburb. Twelve-year-old Penny and the group of neighborhood boys she plays with are convinced that Caleb is behind certain chilling occurrences that now take place, among them the disappearances of many family pets. The children decide to investigate, not fully realizing how dangerous this choice could be. "The thriller aspects … are on target," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic, adding that, through her plot, Holm is successful in "ratcheting up the tension with leisurely precision."
In the "Stink Files" books, Holm collaborates with husband Hamel in a series of books about a British super-spy-cat who tragically winds up living with an average American family in New Jersey. In The Postman Always Brings Mice James Edward Bristlefur is trying to cope with the indignity of being renamed "Mr. Stink" while hoping to escape his new pet guardians and continue his investigation into who assassinated his former owner. Slowly, however, the cat comes to care for his new keeper, fifth-grader Aaron. Seeing that Aaron is having trouble with a bully at school, Bristlefur hires a posse of mice and sets out to take care of the bully once and for all. The "resourceful, self-assured Stink makes a beguiling narrator," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, while Elaine E. Knight noted in the School Library Journal that the book's "upper-class, James Bond-style narration provides a humorous contrast to the Jersey accent of the local dogs and mice and the everyday American English of the humans."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Our Only May Amelia; February 1, 2001, Lolly Gepson, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 1063; September 1, 2001, Kay Weisman, review of Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 109; July, 2002, Barbara Baskin, review of An Adventure, p. 1866; September 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, p. 123; August, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Creek, p. 1973; March 1, 2004, Kay Weisman, review of Boston Jane: The Claim, p. 1203; May 1, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Postman always Brings Mice, p. 1498.
California Kids, September, 2003, Patricia M. Newman, "Who Wrote That?: Featuring Jennifer Holm."
Horn Book, January, 2001, Kristi Beavin, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 121; September-October, 2001, Anita L. Burkam, review of An Adventure, p. 584; September-October, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, review of Wilderness Days, p. 574.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The Creek, p. 805; January 15, 2004, review of The Claim, p. 83; May 15, 2004, review of The Postman always Brings Mice, p. 492.
Kliatt, July, 2004, Joni Spurrier, review of Wilderness Days, p. 19; November, 2004, Stephanie Squicciarini, review of The Creek, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1999, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 71; June 28, 1999, Ingrid Roper, "Jennifer Holm," p. 28; November 1, 1999, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 58; September 3, 2001, review of An Adventure, p. 88; September 16, 2002, review of An Adventure, p. 71; July 7, 2003, review of The Creek, p. 73.
School Library Journal, June, 1999, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 130; November, 2000, Barbara Wysocki, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 78; August, 2001, Janet Hilbun, review of An Adventure, p. 183; January, 2002, Francisca Goldsmith, review of An Adventure, p. 78; October, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Wilderness Days, p. 164; July, 2003, Douglas P. Davey, review of The Creek, p. 131; May, 2004, Jean Gaffney, review of The Claim, p. 150; June, 2004, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Postman always Brings Mice, p. 110.
Dickinson, http://www.dickinson.edu/magazine/ (September 22, 2005), Sherri Kimmel, "Novel Dickinsonia: Prodigious Producer Jennifer Holm '90 Keeps the Printing Press Humming with a Book a Year."
Jennifer Holm Home Page, http://www.jenniferholm.com (July 19, 2005).