All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Jennifer Holm

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Jennifer Holm has always loved reading. She recalls this: "One of our neighbors said that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I read a book with the other!” Holm has co-authored a series of graphic novels featuring a mouse (Babymouse) and an amoeba (Squish) and created a feline version of James Bond (The Stink Files). She has also published several Newbery Honor-winning historical fiction novels for middle grade readers inspired by stories from her own family.


Holm grew up in Audubon, Pennsylvania with four brothers  — including her co-author Matt Holm. After college, Holm worked briefly in television although she was always interested in writing. Our Only May Amelia, the story of a 12-year-old girl living in the late 19th century (inspired by a diary written by her great aunt) became her first published novel and was a 2000 Newbery Honor Book. She received a second Newbery Honor in 2011 for Turtle in Paradise, a story set in the Great Depression in Key West, Florida. With her brother Matt, she created two popular graphic novel series — Babymouse and Squish (an amoeba).

Holm has also collaborated with her husband, Jonathan Hamel, to create the "Stink Files" series featuring a British super-spy, who also happens to be a cat. Holm currently lives in California with Hamel and their two children.

Learn more at Jennifer Holm’s official website.

Selected Books

from Jennifer Holm

Sunny Side Up

Age Level: 9-12

Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer. Sunny meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they’re having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains — why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won’t be secret to Sunny much longer.

Buy Sunny Side Up

Full of Beans

Age Level: 9-12

Times are tough for Beans and his family in Key West during the Great Depression. Can Beans and his friends trust the New Dealers who say that they have come to Florida to make their small, poor town a tourist destination? Bean’s saga is both humorous and poignant in his satisfying story.

Buy  Full of Beans

Our Only May Amelia

Age Level: 9-12

Twelve-year-old tomboy May Amelia Jackson, the youngest of seven children and the only girl in a Finnish immigrant family, lives in the wilderness along the Nasel River in Washington State in 1899. Through May Amelia's travels, readers witness the diverse ways of life in the expanding West: peaceful relations with the Chinook Indians, the dangers posed by the neighboring logging camp, her aunt's life in the nearby boomtown of Astoria, Oregon, as well as the rhythms of the seasons.

Buy  Our Only May Amelia

Penny from Heaven

Age Level: 9-12

It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. This coming-of-age story is populated by a cast of vivid family characters and it explores the things that tear them apart and the things that bring them back together. The book includes an Author's Note with photographs and additional background on World War II, Internment camps, and 1950s America.

Buy Penny from Heaven

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Age Level: 9-12

Middle school is tough enough but what happens when your grandfather — a scientist who has uncovered some really interesting jellyfish properties — attends with you as a 13-year old? It's a totally new experience! Told with verve and humor (and a touch of science), this is a coming-of-age tale for 11-year old Ellie and Melvin, her teenaged granddad.

Buy The Fourteenth Goldfish

Turtle in Paradise

Age Level: 9-12

In 1935, jobs are hard to come by, and Turtle's mother is lucky to find work as a live-in housekeeper. When she learns that her employer can't stand children, she sends her 11-year-old daughter from New Jersey to Key West to live with relatives. Turtle discovers a startlingly different way of life amid boisterous cousins, Nana Philly, and buried treasure. This richly detailed novel was inspired by Holm's great-grandmother's stories.

Buy Turtle in Paradise

The Third Mushroom

Age Level: 9-12

Ellie's grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist... in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach!

Buy The Third Mushroom

Swing it, Sunny

Age Level: 9-12

Summer's over and it's time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of middle school. When her Gramps calls her from Florida to ask how she's doing, she always tells him she's fine. But the truth? Sunny is NOT having the best time. Not only is the whole middle school thing confusing but life at home is confusing, too. Sunny misses her brother Dale, who's been sent to boarding school. But when Dale comes back, she STILL misses him because he's changed.

Buy Swing it, Sunny