Holm, Jennifer L. 1968(?)- (Holm and Hamel, a joint pseudonym)

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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, Millie May. Education: Dickinson College, B.A., 1990.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Fallston, MD. Agent—Jill Grinberg, Anderson Grinberg Literary Management, 244 5th Ave., New York, NY 10001. E-mail—[email protected]

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; Newbery Honor Award, for Penny from Heaven, Gryphon Award, ALA Notable Children's Book, New York Book Show Awards, all for Baby Mouse: Queen of the World!, 2006.

WRITINGS:

FOR CHILDREN

Our Only May Amelia, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Penny from Heaven, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, Ginee Seo Books (New York, NY), 2007.

"BOSTON JANE" SERIES

Boston Jane: An Adventure, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Boston Jane: The Claim, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

"BABYMOUSE" SERIES; GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR CHILDREN; WITH BROTHER, MATTHEW HOLM

Babymouse: Queen of the World!, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.

Babymouse: Our Hero!, illustrated by Matthew Holm, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.

Babymouse: Heartbreaker, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Babymouse: Rock Star, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Babymouse: Beach Babe!, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Babymouse: Puppy Love, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Babymouse: Camp Babymouse, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Babymouse: Skater Girl, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

(And illustrator, with Matthew Holm) Babymouse: Monster Mash, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.

"STINK FILES" SERIES; WITH HUSBAND, 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.

OTHER

The Creek (horror; for young adults), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

ADAPTATIONS:

Our Only May Amelia was adapted for the stage and performed at the Seattle Children's Theatre, 2002.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jennifer L. Holm is a children's author who has created three different series: the "Boston Jane" books, which are historical fiction; the "Stink Files" series, which are written with her husband, Jonathan Hamel, and feature a feline version of the classic spy character James Bond; and the "Babymouse" books, created with her brother Matthew, which use a graphic-novel style but are targeted toward young readers.

Holm loved reading from a very young age. In a narrative on her home page, she recalled: "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!" While attending Dickinson College, Holm studied international relations, and in an effort to lighten her load during her senior year, she decided to audit a class in writing short stories. Her interest in writing was sparked again 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 upbringing Holm herself enjoyed during the 1970s, 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. In the stories, Jane is a girl whose 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, Boston Jane: An Adventure, Jane is aged fifteen. William, who has in the interim moved to the 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 her husband, Hamel, in a series of books about a British super-spy-cat who 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 the assassination of 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."

Holm started a new venture with the "Babymouse" series, funny, fast-paced graphic novels aimed at an audience of young girls. The title character was inspired by Holm's perception that there had never really been any good comics for girls. Using the graphic-novel style, she and her brother bring to life the imaginative, buoyant Babymouse, a dramatic girl rodent who has curly whiskers and loves pink hearts. Various volumes in the series show her taking some time at the beach, going to camp, and so on. She is "the little mouse with the big personality," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer.

Holm won her second Newbery Award for her novel Penny from Heaven. This story, narrated by the title character, is set in the 1950s. Penny, whose father is deceased, lives with her mother and grandparents. Life is low-key, but it becomes more exciting when she visits her father's lively Italian family. The author's skill in evoking the 1950s was noted by many reviewers. "Penny and her world are clearly drawn and eminently believable," noted Faith Brautigan in School Library Journal. Furthermore, "Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy in this coming-of-age story," praised Jennifer Mattson in Booklist.

Holm continues the "Babymouse" series with Babymouse: Puppy Love. In this installment, Babymouse wants a puppy as a replacement pet when the latest in a long string of goldfishes dies. Instead, she ends up with a hamster, who soon escapes when Babymouse inadvertently leaves the door to his cage open. A new series of pets escapes, one after another, including a turtle, a ferret, and a salamander. Eventually, Babymouse gets the puppy she wants so badly, and proves herself to be a much better minder of dogs than of other creatures. She even succeeds in teaching her new pet a set of tricks, such as to sit, to fetch, and so on, wielding a doggie biscuit as a means of encouragement. Tanya D. Auger, in a review for Horn Book, praised the book for the ongoing charm of the heroine and her amusing adventures, adding that "her interactions with the buttinsky narrator that make for some of the funniest sequences."

Babymouse: Camp Babymouse finds Babymouse on a campaign to go to summer camp. Though she is not fond of outdoor activities as a rule, she is nevertheless sure that she will simply adore going to camp. So it comes as something of a shock to Babymouse when, instead of setting off on a series of grand adventures, she finds herself constantly getting into trouble, a situation that causes her camp team, the Buttercups, to accumulate a high number of demerits. Kat Kan, a reviewer for Booklist, praised the book for its easy ac- cessibility of subject matter, and concluded that "the story promises great fun for both new comics readers and avid ones."

Holm's next book in the "Babymouse" series is Babymouse: Skater Girl. After learning to ice skate, Babymouse begins to dream of being a championship skater, with a collection of gold medals for her efforts. Then a coach spots her at the local pond and decides she has talent, possibly enough to make her dreams come true. Excited at the prospect, Babymouse begins to train with the coach, but soon discovers that dreams require a great deal of hard work and sacrifice if they are actually going to come to fruition. Skating practice takes hours each day, time that Babymouse would normally spend with her friends, and her coach also forbids her to eat her beloved cupcakes. Babymouse discovers that she has to make a decision as to what her dreamed of gold medals are actually worth. Horn Book reviewer Kitty Flynn wrote that "Babymouse leaps back into readers' hearts with her signature pink-tinted fantasies, [and] smart-alecky narrator commentary."

In Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, Holm tells the story of seventh grader Ginny Davis, who is having a very bad year trying to make the transition into middle school. Not only is school difficult, but suddenly her home life takes a new turn, and Ginny finds herself with a brand-new stepfather. She had been hoping that her mother would remarry, but the reality of the situation is far different from her fantasies. Her brother reacts badly to the new man in the family and starts acting out, getting into even more trouble than he had prior to the marriage. Ginny finds herself struggling to keep on course, but the distractions at home lead to problems with homework and classes, and her grades start to worsen. Only her understanding grandfather and her involvement in ballet classes—both of which she adores—keep Ginny from going off the deep end. Holm tells the story in a mishmash of lists, IMs, letters, report cards, notes, and homework assignments, all of which combine into a scrapbook of sorts that gives readers a wonderful peek into Ginny's very difficult year. Suzanne Harold, in a review for Booklist, remarked that "while none of the themes are explored deeply, the book makes a fun, appealing read." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly declared that "the punchy visuals and the sharp, funny details reel in the audience and don't let go." School Library Journal contributor Diana Pierce concluded that "the story combines honesty and humor to create a believable and appealing voice." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found the book to be a "convincing account of a middle-schooler's life."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

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 Boston Jane: 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; March 15, 2006, Jesse Karp, review of Babymouse: Beach Babe!, p. 56; April 15, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Penny from Heaven, p. 58; August, 2007, Kat Kan, review of Babymouse: Camp Babymouse, p. 120; October 15, 2007, Suzanne Harold, review of Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, p. 48.

California Kids, September, 2003, Patricia M. Newman, "Who Wrote That? Featuring Jennifer Holm."

Children's Bookwatch, October 1, 2006, review of Penny from Heaven.

Horn Book, January, 2001, Kristi Beavin, review of Our Only May Amelia, p. 121; September-October, 2001, Anita L. Burkam, review of Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 584; September-October, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, review of Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, p. 574; September 1, 2006, Robin Smith, review of Babymouse: Rock Star, p. 585; January 1, 2007, review of Babymouse: Heartbreaker, p. 67; November-December, 2007, Kitty Flynn, review of Babymouse: Skater Girl, p. 680; January-February, 2008, Tanya D. Auger, review of Babymouse: Puppy Love, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The Creek, p. 805; January 15, 2004, review of Boston Jane: The Claim, p. 83; May 15, 2004, review of The Postman Always Brings Mice, p. 492; April 15, 2006, review of Babymouse: Beach Babe!, p. 408; June 1, 2006, review of Penny from Heaven, p. 574; July 1, 2007, review of Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf.

Kliatt, July, 2004, Joni Spurrier, review of Boston Jane: 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 Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 88; September 16, 2002, review of Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 71; July 7, 2003, review of The Creek, p. 73; August 28, 2006, review of Penny from Heaven, p. 54; July 30, 2007, review of Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, p. 82.

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 Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 183; January, 2002, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Boston Jane: An Adventure, p. 78; October, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Boston Jane: Wilderness Days, p. 164; July, 2003, Douglas P. Davey, review of The Creek, p. 131; May, 2004, Jean Gaffney, review of Boston Jane: The Claim, p. 150; June, 2004, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Postman Always Brings Mice, p. 110; July 1, 2006, Ronnie Gordon, review of Babymouse: Beach Babe!, p. 128; July 1, 2006, Faith Brautigan, review of Penny from Heaven, p. 105; September 1, 2006, Scott La Counte, review of Babymouse: Rock Star, p. 238; September, 2007, Diana Pierce, review of Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, p. 198.

ONLINE

Jennifer Holm Home Page,http://www.jenniferholm.com (June 17, 2007).

Miss Erin,http://misserinmarie.blogspot.com/ (January 29, 2007), interview with Jennifer Holm.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer,http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ (January 20, 2006), Cecelia Goodnow, interview with Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.

About this article

Holm, Jennifer L. 1968(?)- (Holm and Hamel, a joint pseudonym)

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