(D) Ages 10-12, Book Reviews, Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction
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Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

In this graphic novel with a bittersweet twist, Sunny’s disappointing “vacation” in her grandfather’s retirement community conceals some family secrets.


Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm.  Scholastic Graphix, 2015, 216 pages

Reading Level: 8-10

Recommended for: 8-12

Sunny, age 10, was anticipating a classic beach vacation with her best friend, but in a sudden change of plans she’s packed off to Florida to stay with her grandfather at a retirement community full of old people.  The maintenance man’s son, Buzz, helps relieve the boredom.  But even worse than boredom are the secrets the grownups are trying to hide, such as Grandpa’s cigarettes (though he claims he quit).  Closet smoking, however, pales in relation to the real reason Sunny is in Florida, which has to do with her brother’s serious drug problem.

The story is set in the 1970s with lots of cultural references.  These are are fun for old codgers like me, but I don’t know how much relevance they’ll have for a 10-year-old reader today.  Also, the time jumps in the narrative may be confusing at first.  But the basic storyline holds up and delivers an emotional punch, with a pre-teen’s adoration of her cool big brother and dealing with the pain when he lets her down.  Honesty turns out to be the best policy, as Sunny—and her folks—discover she’s old enough to know what’s going on.  Also what may be a more important lesson: she can’t “save” the people she loves, but she can learn to understand them and be there for them, whatever form “being there” may take.

Cautions: drug use, smoking

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 4

Categories: Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Life Issues


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