Thursday, April 1, 2010

Babymouse (Graphic Novel Series) volumes 1 to 3

I've already confessed my love of graphic novels, and now let me further confess that I love all things girly, pink, sparkly, and pretty. I am that girl and I am so without shame. Thus I've been in love with Babymouse since it premiered 5 years and 12 volumes (to date) ago.

Book: Babymouse: by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
volume 1: Babymouse: Queen of the World!
volume 2: Babymouse: Our Hero
volume 3: Babymouse: Beach Babe

Vital Stats: Each volume is around 90 pages, published by Random House, and available in paperback or hardback
Awards: ALA Notable Children's Book Award among others
Marketed Toward: Ages 9 to 12
The Quick and the Short of It: Recommended, with some slight reservations, for anyone second grade and up, but most likely to be enjoyed by girls. (I've never seen a boy in the library so much as pick one of these up, but the girls can't get enough of them.)

Book Synopsis:
These books feature the tale of young Babymouse who loves cupcakes, monster movies, her best friend Wilson the Weasel, and her family. She uses her fantastic imagination and many flights of fancy (frequent daydream sequences have her doing anything from blazing a pioneer trail to fighting giant monsters) to cope with school, Felicia Furrypaws the bully, and the other trials and tribulations of life. The adorable and charming illustrations are done in only three colors: varying shades of black, white, and pink. It sounds limiting, but it is amazing how much is done with something that simple.

Babymouse: Queen of the World!
Babymouse wants to be queen, she wants to be popular, but she is not. The queen is that bully Felicia Furrypaws and when everyone (or so it seems) but Babymouse is invited to Felicia's slumber party, Babymouse is never more aware of her social position. Babymouse obsesses about the slumber party until she has the chance to "earn" an invitation by allowing Felicia to turn in a book report Babymouse wrote and claim it as her own. Despite having made plans with Wilson, Babymouse attends the slumber party only to discover it isn't much fun at all. At the 11th hour, she remembers herself, leaves the slumber party, and rejoins her true friend.

Babymouse: Our Hero
She dreams of being a hero, but all too often she is just a regular Babymouse. Never has she seemed more ordinary or even awful than in gym class. When a dodgeball game is announced, Babymouse knows that she is doomed to misery, but when the day finally comes (after a week of worry), she surprises everyone (even herself) by firing the winning shot.

Babymouse: Beach Babe
School is over, summer is here, and Babymouse is very excited about her family's vacation to the beach. She has grand plans for surfing (harder than it looks), sunbathing (sunburns), snorkeling (sharks), and much more fun. Unfortunately in her own attempts to have fun, she keeps ignoring her little brother Squeak, finally breaking his heart when she laments her lack of "cool" playmates. Squeak runs away causing a distraught Babymouse to find him. Their vacation ends up being a lot of fun as the two of them play together.

My Take:
These books are sweet and cute. The moral of the story is transparent (to adults at least) and predictable far in advance, but it is never irritating or cloying. The artwork is charming and the characters extremely likeable. Girls seem to love this series at my library and I love recommending it to them. This is officially marketed at 9 to 12 year-olds, but I really think its appeal is a bit younger than that. I've got only a few reservations (see below) that keep me from giving it whole-hearted review. Let's say that it is four out of five cupcakes (to put it in Babymouse-ese).

Possible Issues of Concern/Christian Connection:
Usually Babymouse learns a good lesson in each of her books (to know your true friends, to be brave, to enjoy playing with your little brother in the first three volumes respectively). The only issues I have are minor. In the second book, Babymouse's winning dodgeball shot hits Felicia Furrypaws directly in the face in what looks like an extremely painful hit, even when rendered in black and white and pink. Ouch! Don't try that at home! And in the third book, Babymouse's beach outfit (though never played for overt sexuality in anyway) is a pair of knee-length board short and a midriff revealing tank top. In one dream sequence in that volume she is a mermaid (err mermouse) wearing a shell bikini top. Other than those two outfits, all other outfits pictured are appropriately modest in the book series.

You Might Also Like:
The Lunch Lady graphic novel series by Jarrett J. Krosoczkais a similar size and shape and uses the same three-tone illustration scheme (only in that case, black, white, and yellow) and features a bevy of lunch ladies who fight evil in various forms. A good guy-friendly option (though still sure to appeal to girls as well).

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
-Proverbs 15:17


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