Monday, October 30, 2006

A Visit From Jennifer Holm

Lawrence School fifth graders welcomed Jennifer Holm on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006, to hear about her life as an author. She wasn’t wearing the pink dress pictured on her web site but she was certainly the same person, and very willing to share how she did the research for her newest book, Penny From Heaven. It was a surprise to hear how much research she needed to do to write an historical fiction book! The book takes place in the 1950s, when clothes, cars, and family entertainment (radio, not TV) were different from now. Ms. Holm’s background is Italian, and it meant a lot to her to capture the experience of Italian families living in the United States at a painful time when some immigrants (Japanese, German, and Italian) were considered suspicious -- without regard for an individual’s worth -- because of events of the Second World War.

In answer to the question “What do authors do all day?,” Ms. Holm showed us slides of her son, her home office, her couch (she naps when she reads), and her pink bicycle. Her favorite treat after writing is ice cream! She showed pictures of her storyboards, her character maps and the many (twelve or thirteen!) drafts of her novel.

Ms. Holm also writes another kind of book (graphic novels) featuring Babymouse, a spunky girl superheroine-type character who wants to be queen of the world. Why a girl superhero?? Ms. Holm had four brothers growing up. They read a lot of comic books (mostly Prince Valiant, Peanuts, and Calvin and Hobbes), and she thinks modern readers need to see more girls in the comics than she did.

When she won the Newbery Honor award for her book Our Only May Amelia, she wasn’t even home to get the special phone call. She was with her parents in the hospital when she finally heard about her very special honor. Her mom did not believe she had won the prestigious award; her dad bragged to all the nurses!

Before supporting herself as an author, Ms. Holm wrote commercials full time, writing her first book (Our Only May Amelia) in bits and pieces of time. Eventually she found an agent who represented her book to publishers, and happily it got published. The rest is history, as they say.

If you want to learn more about Jennifer Holm’s books, visit her website at