Sunday, November 1, 2009

Babymouse, Queen of the World (v.1)

Biblio Bits Babymouse, Queen of the World, Vol.1, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, Random House, 2005 (ISBN 0375832297)

Reading Level/Interest Ages 9-12

Genre Humor

Format Graphic novel

Plot Summary
Babymouse is a middle-school-aged mouse with frizzy whiskers who attends school with lots of other kinds of animals (her teacher is a hippo). Babymouse's best friend is Wilson the weasel, who has been there for her since kindergarten. The queen of the girls is Felicia Furrypaws, who is cool, has smooth whiskers and great clothes. When all the girls except Babymouse get their invitations to Felicia's exclusive sleepover, Babymouse knows she must procure an invitation at all costs. When Felicia asks Babymouse for her homework in exchange for an invitation, and it turns out that Wilson's movie night is happening at the same time, Babymouse must make some difficult choices.

Critical Evaluation
Babymouse is a lovable and fallible hero. The illustrations are perfect: black on a white page, with pink as an accent. Babymouse indulges in some alternative fantasies (in space, as a detective, Babymouse vs. The Squid, etc.) that show us inside her creative mind, similar to Calvin's fantasies (Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame). The story is predictably familiar: the social complexities and attractiveness of the "in-crowd." It's a theme that will never be overdone for middle-schoolers: this is perhaps the most important tween story that can be told, because it's a story that is re-told and re-enacted every day in middle school. The language is simple, the illustrations are engaging, and this would be an excellent selection for younger tweens, particularly girls.

Reader's Annotation
Babymouse wishes for more glamor and adventure in her life, but all she has is "an overdue library book and a locker that stuck." Will she ever get a coveted invitation from Felicia Furrypaws for an exclusive sleep-over party?

Author Information
Jennifer L. Holm was born in California but spent her growing-up years in Pennsylvania with her parents and four brothers. She attended Dickinson College (PA) and moved to New York City to work in television production. Holm received a Newbery Honor book for Our Only May Amelia. She currently lives in the northeastern part of the United States with her husband, son, and cat. This was her first collaboration with her brother, Matthew, who is a freelance writer and graphic designer. (Information in this author biography is from the book jacket, as well as the author's official site.)

Challenge issues
Oh come on! It's a comic about a mouse with common social issues!

Booktalking Ideas
I would definitely focus on Babymouse's character by asking my audience some questions. Have you ever wanted a little more adventure in your life? More glamour? Ice cream for lunch? No homework? Straight whiskers? I would build up their empathy with Babymouse, and then allude to some of the social challenges she faces, such as: How about wanting an invitation to a party that "all the cool kids" are going to?

Curriculum Ties
This would be a really fun study for an art class focusing on comics. The illustrations are deceptively simple and would lend themselves to a lesson on the expressiveness of Babymouse's face. Studying the ways that Matthew Holm shows Babymouse's emotions could be a great way to inspire the aspiring comics illustrators. Students could develop a simple animal character and draw their faces in several moods.

Why this book?
My local YA librarian reported that Babymouse is a hit with tween girls, so I thought I should see what all the hype is about.


ALA Notable Children's Books, middle readers' category (2006); Gryphon Award (2006).

Rockport Public Library owns?

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