Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- interview with Jenni Holm

My students are big-time fans of Babymouse & Squish comics, and they are super-excited by Comic Squad. Jennifer Holm lives in the Bay Area, and has been very supportive of schools and bookstores in the area. Recently she took some time to sit down with me to talk about her work.

Jennifer L. Holm
This interview originally ran in Parents Press, a local SF Bay Area newspaper I write a monthly column for. I wanted to share it here with readers beyond the Bay Area.

Mary Ann Scheuer: The kids at my school are going to just love Comics Squad: Recess -- seeing all their favorite comics characters in one place! Why do you think so many kids love to read comics? What makes them fun to read?
Jennifer Holm: I’m so glad — I really think comics can hook some kids on reading. You know, we’re living in a visual society — with video games, the web, advertising, movies and TV. Comics are the ultimate visual storytelling treat. Did you know that graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and bookselling?

MAS: I’m not surprised! They certainly are the most popular type of book in our school library. I worry that some parents think that reading graphic novels is really simple for kids, but that’s not true. How do you explain this to parents?
JH: I think that comics teach you a lot of great reading skills like inference, character development, setting and plot structure. When Matt and I were kids, we loved collected volumes like Snoopy. It built our confidence as readers. I think that’s part of what’s so satisfying for kids -- getting immersed in the whole world of the story.

MAS: What are you excited about with Comic Squad?
JH: Kids aren’t growing up with newspapers the same way we did, so we want to provide the fun we had with Sunday comics. Comic Squad is the ultimate crossover comic, when all your favorite characters (and some new ones!) get together and have a party. We wanted to give kids a chance to visit with their old friends, but also to have some new fun.

MAS: I love the page Mash-Up Madness and the goofy combinations you came up with. I see kids creating their own comics at school all the time!
JH: I really think that teaching kids to doodle encourages kids to become storytellers. It makes them less scared about doing something perfectly. I love it when kids send us their own Babymouse and Squish comics!

MAS: So what’s the difference between comics we read as kids and graphic novels kids are reading today?
JH: We’re in a total renaissance of comics being created specifically for children. There’s more creative work happening with children’s comics in terms of style, story and genre than ever before.

MAS: What resources do you recommend for parents who want to find graphic novels their kids will want to read?
JH: Definitely seek out your local library and bookstore to see if they have a section of comics just for kids. One of the fun things about our collection is that it can introduce kids to some comic creators they may not have come across before. Here are some suggestions for parents:

MAS: Do you have any new projects that you’re excited about? Can you give us a sneak peak?
JH: I’m really excited about my newest novel, The Fourteenth Goldfish, which comes out next month. It’s set in the Bay Area and combines my love of science and stories, families and friendships.

Thanks so much to Jenni Holm for sharing her time and thoughts. She gives so much to kids -- we are all lucky to have her books in our lives, our libraries and especially our kids' hands.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mary Ann :) I, like so many others, love Jenni's work!

    Jenni, this was a wonderful way to explain why comics/graphic novels are good reading for kids. Last week while I was in Barnes (I'm basically a children's book stalker! lol), I overheard a mother tell her son "No, not that---it's a comic book..." She was referring to a graphic novel, so I explained to her the difference. It's something I had to get past, too, several years ago! I've come to embrace them :)

    Thanks for the interview, ladies :)