Random House kindly sent an advance galley of Babymouse: Beach Babe, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. The book is scheduled for publication on May 23rd, and I was happy to have an early look at it. Babymouse: Beach Babe sat on my coffee table the day after it arrived, looking very pink, and calling out, in a high-pitched, squeaky sort of voice "read me." Eventually, just before bedtime, I gave in. And I have to say, after missing the first two books in the series, that I am now in love with Babymouse.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the Babymouse books are graphic novels, with engaging pink and black pictures, designed for the 8 to 12 set. They feature an indomitable heroine, with a rich fantasy life, and loving, if largely invisible, parents. This installment begins with Babymouse dreaming of being a surfing champion, only to wake to discover that (oh great joy!) it's the last day of school. After making it through the day, Babymouse learns (oh greater joy!) that her family will be vacationing at the beach. What follows is a mixture of real-life beachside trials and tribulations (sand-castles, surfing, sunburn, and boardwalks) and fantastical adventures (mermaids and genies in magic bottles).
But the real story is Babymouse's relationship with her much younger brother, Squeak. Anyone who has ever had a younger sibling, or been a younger sibling, will be able to relate to the images of Squeak, ready with his kite, eager for his adored older sister to play with him. And, sadly, we can also relate to Squeak's desolation when Babymouse is too busy, running off on her adventures. There's a scene in which Squeak's heart literally breaks, upon rejection from Babymouse. Clearly, the brother-and-sister creators of this book have some real-life experience in matters of older and younger siblings. You'll have to read the book yourself to see how it turns out.
Babymouse: Beach Babe is a quick and easy read, and will definitely appeal to reluctant grade school readers. Two things make the book stand out for me. The first is the irrepressible spirit of Babymouse, as expressed through her actions, through the wonderful drawings, and through her discussions with the invisible narrator. She carries echoes of Anne Shirley in her dramatic failures, and of Pippi Longstocking in her bravado. The other thing that I love about this book is the regular seasoning of small, humorous details. The scene where Babymouse cleans out her locker, finding, among other things, troublesome gnomes, aliens, and the dish that ran away with the spoon, made me laugh out loud.
Babymouse: Beach Babe is the kind of book that you want to read with someone else nearby, so that you can hold it up and say "look at this!" at intervals. I think that my elementary school nieces will adore it. As for me, Babymouse: Beach Babe made me wish that I had been a little nicer to my younger siblings. It also made me nostalgic for childhood summer vacations, where life's biggest problem is "who am I going to play with?" It's an excellent read for the start of the summer.
About the Authors: According to the promotional material for this book, "Brother and sister team, Matthew and Jennifer Holm, grew up playing with stuffed mice. Jenni had a mouse house and Matt had the garage attached to the house. Today Jenni is the author of several highly acclaimed novels, including the Newbery Honor book, Our Only May Amelia. Matthew is a graphic designer and freelance writer. Neither of them have mice, although Jenni does have a small son who likes cheese a lot and Matt has a weasel. Jenni resides in Maryland and Matthew lives in New York." You can find more information on the Babymouse website.
UPDATE: I just noticed that Kelly at Big A little a published a review of this book on Friday. Like me, Kelly especially enjoyed the locker clean-out scene.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.