Friday, August 31, 2007

Babymouse: Königin der Welt!

Ja, Babymouse has made the leap to Germany, as well!

I haven't seen a real live copy of the book, yet, just the promotional materials. But I can see already that reading the German version aloud is going to be as much fun as reading the Italian version:

The books are put out by the fabulous Bloomsbury and translated by the German children's author Zoran Drvenkar, whose quote on the promotional sheet translates roughly as:

Each Babymouse story is like an enormous chocolate box, in which, aside from the chocolates, are also found film clips and literature quotations. Great fun—without any toothache!

The German versions of Babymouse: Queen of the World (Babymouse: Königin der Welt!) and Babymouse: Our Hero (Babymouse: Unsere Heldin) are available via

LATE ADDITION (9/19/07): I was just checking up on the German Amazon page (I couldn't remember if the book was out yet, or not) and did a quick Babelfish translation. Apparently, Babelfish thinks that my name translates as "Matthew cross-beam."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Matt and Jenni's work in Horn Book!

It's finally arrived at my door, so I can now share the news: Jenni and I have 2 pieces in the September/October 2007 issue of The Horn Book. The special issue is entitled "Boys and Girls;" a bunch of us author-y types write about "how one's gender affects one's reading" (as Roger Sutton says in his opening editorial).

We have a 2-page spread called "Jenni vs. Wonder Woman!" and also a little something for the "Cadenza" at the end of the book. Read! Laugh! Be informed! Etc.!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Neurotic authors: Feed your Amazon ranking habit

Much as bloggers spend much of their free time peeking at their site stats, authors sneak peeks at sales rankings. But it's cumbersome to go to Amazon over and over, and then scroll down the page to find the number—especially if you're tracking more than one book title.

There used to be a web site that tracked these numbers for you. It was originally called Amazonscan, and then (presumably due to a cease-and-desist letter) changed its name to Junglescan. Then it died out, whether due to lack of interest or legal action (I don't think Amazon liked the idea that people would take info. from their site without requiring users to visit the site in person).

Now, with Amazon trying to leverage its programming guts to financial advantage (they have all sorts of programming/application stuff available to web developers, and are also selling online storage for mere pennies), they have apparently given the OK to the team of folks that's running to resurrect the Junglescan idea.

This means that neurotic authors can now set up a list of all of their titles, and check in on the Amazon rankings every day. (Or several times a day.)

You can also look at a historical chart of the book's rankings:

(Guess which day was the Newbery announcement?)

Anyhow, I just think it's neat. Fellow authors, welcome to your new nightmare. Get checking those titles.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Original Laugh-Out-Loud Cats

Stay with me on this one. The meta-humor is thick and forbidding, and those unfamiliar with the reams of back story may not get it. (I'm a little bit outside of this culture—that's right, I'm, unbelievably, not geeky enough—so I had to do some research myself.)

Most of you should know about leetspeak and gamerspeak and the horrible abbreviations people use and abuse online. I'm talking about things like:

LOL = I'm laughing out loud!

OMG = Oh my God!

ROTFLMAO = I'm rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off!


The aforementioned abuse gave rise to leetspeaking haxorz (hackers ... actually "h4x0rz" is probably the truly leet way to type it) to start mocking such abusers by creating things like:

ZOMG!!!! = Oh My God!!!!! No, Really!!! I really, really, am super-excited about something, see??? I put in a "Z" before it!!!

teh = "The," but since this common typo appears so frequently online, it's funny to put it in deliberately ("Teh book Babymouse: Rockstar r0x0rz teh s0x0rz," etc.)

Then you have a whole school of gamerspeak going on, brought about by those multiplayer online shooters where fellow players can type messages to each other. (Nowadays, I guess, everyone can talk to each other on headsets.) So you have things like:

im in ur base, killing ur d00dz = while you were busy doing something else in the game, I infiltrated your seemingly secure fortress, and I am now in the process of slaughtering all of your reserve units, and there's little you can do to stop it

OK. Still with me? Now, you've got your weird Photoshop art, some of which is little more than a funny photo of an animal with a weird caption. Such as this famous owl. From this came the LOLcats. People started captioning cat photos, and often uploaded them all for others to see on Saturday (Caturday). So some geniuses who saw this ridiculous photo:

created as a place to compile all of these LOLcats.

That's where the story should end. But it doesn't.

Another maniac, named Adam Koford, decided to spend a good portion of his life in creating a faux-Krazy-Kat-era comic strip called "The Original Laugh-Out-Loud Cats." It stars two hobo cats, and plays off the LOLcats meme. It's quite brilliant, but the most disturbing thing is just how good Koford's technique is. He apparently makes his living as an illustrator and does work with American Greetings, but I'm here to say:


The man is talented and funny, and he should be getting more than the $20 for which he sells each LOLcats strip.

I'm now the proud owner of #173:

I urge you all to read through the complete collection at Flickr.

Monday, August 13, 2007

An early Halloween treat

Here's a little Halloween treat for everyone—a bit early, granted. It's the first thumbnail sketch from the sketchbook for Babymouse #9 ... which will have a Halloween theme.

Will it make it to the final book? Who can say. Now, you only have to wait another year or so to find out. (After all, you have to read Skater Girl and Puppy Love first!)

Reviews from the NYPL's summer readers

In Olde New York, they have a Summer Reading web site to encourage said reading and to help folks choose and discuss age-appropriate books (Birth to 5, Kids, Teens, Adults).

The site's users also write reviews of books they've read, which can be very enlightening when kids are doing the reviewing. (Or rather, being forced to write reviews. At least that's the impression I get from reading through them all. I envision grumpy but well-intentioned adults looming over them as they type.) In addition to the many blush-inspiring rave reviews of Babymouse: Our Hero, there were also some reviews that make me think that, just perhaps, the kids never actually read Babymouse: Our Hero:

Every Body Loves her she is the towns #1 hero she saved five people in the story.

She first has a bad day. Then one day someone needs help and she helps that person. So she becomes "Babymouse Our Hero".

Baby mouse gets fear in volleyball.So he beats them up. He won alot of tropies.Then later he lost power and energy at playing volleyball.So he got tired and quit volleyball

Then there are the brutal reviews (but at least they're short; the beating doesn't go on too long):

It was bad.

the story was soso because it didn’t have alot of details.

Then there's this one:


She hates school so much! I hope the book's a bit more nuanced than that.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Babymouse: Regina del Mondo!

Sì! Babymouse has gone to Italy!

(The subtitle they added says "I want a world that's all pink...")

Our paisanos at Salani Editore put out a first-class translation of Babymouse: Queen of the World. The book, which has a sturdy library binding and retails for 10 euros, is great fun to read aloud in an Italian accent. (If only my mother's family had spoken more Italian around her, I might have a prayer of being able to read it properly.) It's nice to know some things withstand translation, such as "Tipico!" and "Stupidi baffi!"

Some things that did change:
  • An alarm clock in Italy doesn't go, "Riiinnng!" It goes, "Driiiin!"
  • A bus pulling away doesn't go "Vrooom!" It goes, "Brumm!"
  • Babymouse's little brother, "Squeak," becomes "Squik"
  • "Felicia Furrypaws" becomes "Felizia Zampotti!"
  • and "Wilson the Weasel" becomes "Donny Donnola"

It's great fun to see. And there's only one thing left to say:

Mmm... Tortine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Yes—Matthew Holm does school visits!

It's true. Even though I drew this picture:

a drawing of Babymouse's school building being swallowed up by the earth in a horrendous earthquake

... I harbor no long-term ill-will against school. (Well, not at any of the teachers and librarians, certainly. Any ill will stems purely from my fellow classmates.) In fact, I love, love, love to do school visits. Why? Because kids are the best audience in the entire world.

Picture this: There you are, speaking in front of a conference room full of grown-ups. Your presentation is running a little short. You glance at the wall clock, click through to your final PowerPoint slide, and humbly ask, "Any questions?"

Silence. Some polite shrugs and head shakes. You thank them and leave, and suddenly your host has to come up with 10 minutes of material to pad things out.

Now, picture this: You're speaking to a gymnasium full of Second-, Third-, and Fourth-Graders. You zoomed through your presentation too fast. You still have 25 minutes to kill. (Okay, you were really fast.) You ask the kids, "Any questions?"

Forty-five minutes later, with all sorts of bells ringing, the faculty members are desperately trying to get the kids to stop asking questions so that they can all get back to Math class. Trust me—kids never run out of questions.

What's more, even after I've finished telling them all of the secrets of how Jenni and I originally came up with Babymouse and how we sketch and write and revise and create a whole book out of thin air, I can drag the kids up in front of the room and get them to think up crazy things for me to draw—say, Babymouse as a mermaid. Or a soccer player. Or a lawyer. Or a light bulb. (Yes, those are all actual past requests from students.) And then, just when my stamina is fading, I can call volunteers up by pairs and have them compete head-to-head in a Babymouse draw-off! Who draws a better Babymouse? Boys? Girls? You'll just have to wait and see.

So, if you would like me to come to your school (or library, or bookstore), just send me an e-mail, and we'll talk more. I live in Portland, Ore., so Pacific Northwest school visits are pretty easy. But I do travel quite a bit, and no area of the country is out of the question. (Guam and some of the Territories might prove problematic.) Canada's swell, too.

I hope to see you and your students in a school gymnasium someday soon!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Back to S----l?

Say it ain't so! Not the "s" word! Well, if the kids have to go back to you-know-where so soon, take the Horn Book's advice, and give them Babymouse: Heartbreaker.


Sounds like some sort of strange zombie that guards the card catalog. (Presumably because those things are so rare nowadays. Um, card catalogs, that is. Not zombies.) But there you have it: LibraryThing, which apparently is some conglomeration of book info. The site has a page on Queen of the World, with some reviews (professional and amateur) that I don't remember seeing before, including this one of the UK edition of QOW:

Clive Barnes, Books for Keeps No. 159, July 2006

"HarperCollins launches its assault on the graphic novel market in Britain with a new departure: Babymouse, a cartoon character with appeal to pre-pubescent girls. In these American import titles, Babymouse suffers some of the usual angst of school life (States side anyway), in feeling not part of the in-crowd and having to face up to the rigours of dodge ball. She endures and triumphs by drawing on the wells of inner strength and true friendship, and by enjoying a full fantasy life, in which she imagines herself as the heroine of a variety of cinematic pastiches, from pioneer western to prison drama. The books are a chunky paperback size, mainly in bold black and white, but with significant touches of pink. The fantasy sequences are really pink, and a pink heart surrounds each page number; but the totally twee is kept at bay by the down to earth humour of the sister (author) and brother (illustrator) team and their appreciation of some of the real anxieties of school life. Could this be the female Captain Underpants? Perhaps. I can’t help hoping that Babymouse’s boyfriend, who’s a weasel, discovers his true nature soon." (from CLCD)
 Award & Distinctions:
o Gryphon Award Honor Book 2006
o Notable Children’s Books 2006
o Top 10 Graphics Novels for Youth, 2006

I like that—an "assault on the graphic novel market in Britain." (And let me tell you—the British graphic novel market is a tough battle. The Normans had an easer time.) But I've gotta say, not loving the "pre-pubescent" tag. That's a term that should only be used in Health class, in my opinion.

And what does he mean by, "I can’t help hoping that Babymouse’s boyfriend, who’s a weasel, discovers his true nature soon." What's his true nature? Is there some sort of X-men thing going on here that I don't know about? When he reaches puberty (post-pubescent), is he going to be able to fly or throw dodgeballs at twice the speed of sound or something?

Oh—and the best capsule review of QOW ever:

Babymouse discovers Felicia Furrypaws isn't very nice.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A plethora of cartoon portraits

I guess when you're a cartoonist, there's no avoiding countless caricature portraits of real people (or yourself). I have to do a new one for every Babymouse book. I admit it--I'm a sucker for the genre. And, I'm a sucker for the Simpsons. So I followed Betsy Bird's lead and Simpsonized myself, and my lovely wife, Cyndi:

Cyndi and Matt, Simpsonized

The girls definitely have better options in terms of hair, etc., in my opinion. Plus, I have zero accessories--no glasses, no jewelry, etc., so my portrait looks a little boring. (Or maybe it's just that girls always look better than guys, even in Springfield.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Librarian: Babymouse leading the pack!

A great feature in the latest Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf newsletter, "What We're Circ'ing", gives mad props to Babymouse:

Judith A. Dubin, youth librarian at West Bloomfield Township Public Library, West Bloomfield, Mich., talks about the Babymouse series (Random House).

Babymouse has found her fans! In this graphic novel series from the sister-and-brother team of Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, cupcake loving, pink-heart-wearing Babymouse may be a cartoon character, but she faces the same daily trials and tribulations as most girls. A recent graphic novel display in our Youth Department has spurred an increase in the circulation of our graphic novel collection, with Babymouse leading the pack. Several moms (including some of our own librarians with daughters) have become fans after reading the series with their daughters. A patron even took the time to write us a note thanking us for our graphic novel collection and said, "My daughter has dyslexia and these are the only books she can read from start to finish on her own." We can't get new Babymouse titles in fast enough!

Jenni's new book: Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf

My sister's new book, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff, is finally out! Even though it just hit the shelves (July 24, 2007, pub. date), the funny thing is, it's been in the works longer than Babymouse. I contributed 3 cartoons to Meatloaf, which I drew before Babymouse was even a scribble on a napkin. The drawings are ostensibly from the protagonist's older brother.

I lucked out with only having to do those 3 'toons; Elicia Castaldi is the one who had to tear her hair out illustrating the whole thing, which is a massive collection of trompe l'oeil artifacts (notes, report cards, IMs, school assignments, bank statements, etc.). You can get a sense of it from the cover alone:

Book cover of Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm

Do girls want to shoot laser beams out of their eyes?

Mel Barber's article from the York Dispatch, Graphic novelty: Comics cozy up to teenage girls, covers DC's The Plain Janes. It raises a point that I, a guy working primarily in a world of female professionals and readers, have often wrestled with: Why do girls read comics?

Popular culture is steeped in images of strong, handsome men with superpowers who wear funny outfits and save the world from mad scientists and alien invaders. Boys imagine themselves with Superman's ability to fly or Batman's cool gadgets.

And girls? Mostly they're the love interests and the damsels in distress.

But DC Comics is challenging the boys-only stigma with a line of graphic novels targeting an often-overlooked audience: teenage girls. The Minx imprint launched this summer with "The Plain Janes," a realistic high school story written by Cecil Castellucci, an award-winning author of young adult fiction.

"I don't think girls have the same type of power fantasies that guys do," said Karen Berger, executive editor of DC Comics. "Their whole makeup is less on the physical power and more on internal wisdom, individuality and assertiveness."

Many conversations with my sister, Jenni, have revealed that she, in fact, preferred the male superheroes when she was a kid, because they were much cooler (their powers, their costumes, their vehicles) than the female ones. I asked her what she thought about when she read comics as a kid. For me and most boys I know, you want to be able to fly, shoot laser beams out of your eyes, etc. etc. Do girls want the same thing? My sister says, "yes." But she also reads Shojo Beat and read a heap of Harlequin romance novels through her teen years.

We know girls are reading comics like crazy ... but why are they doing it? What do they get out of it, and is it any different from what boys get out of it?

PS: I just noticed that both the
York Dispatch and the Scripps Howard piece yesterday eschew the use of proper title capitalization ... is that over for newspapers, now? Blogs really have defeated the mainstream media!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Camp Babymouse: Scripps Howard Review

One reason I created this site was so I could try to actually keep track of the press relating to Babymouse. Expect me to play a bit of catch-up on past articles, but, for now, here's a new one from Scripps Howard News Service:

"Good summer-themed books" by Karen MacPherson

Playing catch-up in the old Web game

I've been lax. I build Web sites for a living (when I'm not drawing mice), but have no site of my own (excluding and, but those include other people ... they're not all ME ME ME!).

Anyway, here's the site. I figured a Blogger account would be relatively easy to put together and maintain and might actually get spidered by search engines. Plus, as a Web designer, I really need to become more familiar with all of these off-the-shelf options.

Enjoy! More to come, naturally.