Holm to helm talk on kids books

By Joey Steinberger, For the Daily
Published March 28, 2012

We all remember the potent effects of children’s books on our imagination. Books such as “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White capture young readers’ thoughts and take them to other worlds.

Jennifer Holm lecture


Tomorrow at 5:10 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Free


Those curious to learn more about children’s bookwriting can attend the Sarah Marwil Lamstein Children’s Literature Lecture tomorrow. This year’s lecture will be given by Jennifer Holm, recipient of three Newbery Honors for her books “Our Only May Amelia,” “Penny from Heaven” and “Turtle in Paradise.”

“Originally I wanted to be a ballerina … since that didn’t pan out, I obviously had to become a children’s author,” Holm wrote in an e-mail interview.

Holm primarily writes historical fiction for middle-school readers. Her first book, “Our Only May Amelia,” depicts a rebellious pioneer girl in turn-of-the-century Washington State. Though Holm writes about times well before her own, she relies on her own experiences for inspiration.

“I think it’s safe to say that I remember very clearly what it felt like to be twelve years old,” Holm wrote.

But Holm doesn’t just write historical fiction, she has published graphic novels, as well. “Babymouse” is a series of graphic novels about an adventurous young mouse who dreams of being the queen of the world. Written from the perspective of a 9-year-old girl, “Babymouse” is Holm’s favorite character she has brought to life.

Holm will lecture on how her family’s history influences her writing. The inspiration for “Our Only May Amelia” came from the childhood diary kept by her great aunt, Alice Amelia Holm. When Holm researched the novel, she relied on oral family histories, area research and the experiences of Finnish immigrants at the time. While that might sound boring to some, Holm finds joy in the research process.

“I’m a sucker for local historical societies,” Holm wrote. “I love crawling through dusty collections and hanging out with archivists and historians. When I went to (Dickinson College) I worked in the Archive in the library and it ruined me for life.”

While University students probably haven’t read Holm’s books about rebellious pioneer girls or the perils of middle school, prospective children’s book authors may find her lecture insightful.