As far as I know, things like Babymouse: Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm didn’t exist when I was a kid. This book, the first in a series, was published in 2005, right when I was graduating high school. I can’t help but think how far books for children, and especially books that are appropriate for struggling readers, have come since I was a child. Babymouse is, in my opinion, one book series in a growing movement of books that are changing the face of reading for children.
Poor Babymouse suffers from a problem most children have—she really wants to be liked. Actually, she really wants to be queen, but she will settle for being assistant queen to the undisputable queen in her school, Felicia Furrypaws. Right now, Babymouse’s best friend is Wilson the Weasel. He’s been around helping her since kindergarten, and she’s looking forward to watching monster movies with him on Friday. In school, Babymouse hears that Felicia Furrypaws is having a slumber party, and she is determined to do anything she has to in order to get an invitation, even letting Felicia Furrypaws turn in Babymouse’s book report as her own! She finally gets an invitation, but Felicia Furrypaws’s party is on the same night she is supposed to watch monster movies with Wilson. In the end, Babymouse learns a lesson about who her true friends are, and what it really means to be queen.
Babymouse: Queen of the World! is a graphic novel. Personally, I think I need to start reading more graphic novels because my mind gets so confused with all that is going on within each page. The only colors that illustrator Matthew Holm uses for this graphic novel are white, black, and pink. Babymouse likes to daydream a lot, and when she goes into her daydreams, Matthew Holms helps us know that by changing the background from white to black or pink. Like any genre, graphic novels have certain characteristics. I think it is important to remember, and to help teach our children, that certain concepts about print (like right to left, up and down) will not always work for these texts.
I am thrilled that books and characters like Babymouse exist. Our children need these books, and books like it. (Squish, also written by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm are extremely popular with my students as well.) By the time students get to fourth grade, there is this assumption that they can read. “Middle Grade books,” books that are targeted towards approximately 4-6th graders, often feature children that are my students’ age. So many of my children can’t read those books. Moreover, they have been unsuccessful as readers for so long that they don’t even know what good reading feels like. They’ve never had the joy of reading a book and loving it. Most of the books that are on their reading level are “baby books” that they don’t really want to read. No fourth grader is going to be happy solely reading books about first graders. They have this idea in their head that all of them should be reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson. Enter Babymouse. She’s changing the game, folks.
Babymouse is different for a lot of my children because it is one of the first times in a long time that they have felt successful as readers. I’ve loved watching my kids finish an entire Babymouse book in one class period. They get excited because they have read over 90 pages in one class. For some of them, that has never happened. I know that the text is easy, and that there are few words on one page, but think about it. For a child who hasn’t felt success within a book in a very long time, this single feat can begin to change things for them. Last year at the National Book Festival, I had the opportunity to meet Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. I stood there, waiting for them to sign books for two of my boys who had birthdays coming up. When I finally met them, I actually started to cry as I tried to thank them for what they’ve done for children today. They were the kindest, sweetest people I had ever met, and they got a little teary-eyed too, I think. We need authors like them, and we need books like this for our children. Jennifer L. Holm is actually a two-time Newbery Honor winner, and I love that she is spending time writing books like Babymouse: Queen of the World! because we so desperately need them. So thank you Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, for helping change things for our children.
Click here to visit Jennifer L. Holm's blog!
Click here for a book trailer by Random House about Babymouse!