Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite. by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. May 22, 2012. Random House. 96 pages. ISBN: 9780375843914
The Power of the Parasite is the third book in the Squish series by Babymouse creators Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. In this episode, Squish, a pond-dwelling amoeba, is sent to summer swim camp because his mom thinks amoebas who live in ponds should know how to swim. While sitting on the sidelines, too scared to actually get in the pool, he meets a hydra named Basil. Squish and Basil share a love of Super Amoeba comic books, which Squish reads in every volume of the series so far, and they laugh themselves silly over the swim coach’s insistence that swimming is “super awesome fun!” Before long, though, Basil’s sense of humor reveals a cruel streak, and Squish finds himself wondering if their fun is going too far.
What I like about Jennifer and Matthew Holm’s work is that it finds the fun and humor in childhood experiences. Both Babymouse and Squish are successful series, I think, because of their unique, clever perspectives on school, adults, family, friendship, and in Squish’s case, science. As I’ve said in the past about the Little Wings chapter book series, there is something really appealing about realistic problems set in fantastical and unusual settings. There isn’t much new about the storyline in this book - lots of books have dealt with the idea of bullying or peer pressure in some way, but because the setting is a pond and the characters are hydras and amoebas, the entire story becomes fresh and interesting to its audience, even if that audience has read the basic plotline before.
I also think the way each organism is introduced to the reader is a nice way to incorporate some scientific knowledge into the book without losing the book’s entertainment value. I wasn’t even sure myself of the difference between an amoeba, a paramecium, and a hydra before getting into this series, and it was fun to be reminded by these quirky comics characters. The only thing I do need to admit is that this book isn’t as funny as even the least amusing Babymouse book. Babymouse’s sarcasm really resonates with me, as does her snarky banter with the narrator, but Squish is more earnest, and there is a bit more of a moral to his story. I also recently book talked Babymouse: Mad Scientist to a third grade class, and all of them had read Babymouse, but none had heard of Squish. Squish is cute, and his stories are fun and fast-paced, but they just don’t compare to the excellence of the Babymouse books.
Overall, I think The Power of the Parasite will appeal to kids hooked on graphic novels. Boys who are turned off by the pinkness of Babymouse might find these a nice alternative. I think kids as young as 5 or 6 can appreciate Squish’s more innocent humor, whereas Babymouse’s audience might skew slightly older. Parents who are turned off by Captain Underpants and similar books can feel at ease with Squish, whose only disgusting traits are those given to him by nature. Recommend this book to budding scientists, comic book fanatics, and fans of Megan McDonald’s Stink series.
I received a digital ARC of The Power of the Parasite from Random House via NetGalley.