“Sunny Side Up” is by the award-winning brother and sister team who created the “Babymouse” series. Jennifer Holm also has written many other books including “The Fourteenth Goldfish.” This graphic novel was inspired by a childhood incident.
Sunny, the protagonist of this graphic novel, is sent to Florida to stay with her grandfather. The story is told slowly and through a series of flashbacks. Although this is a graphic novel, it’s not a novel for young readers. Not only could the flashbacks be confusing, the subject matter is best for those in fourth grade and older.
Although she’s in Florida, and within driving distance of Disney World, her grandfather’s idea of an exciting day out is going to the post office. Also, although he told her that he quit smoking because his doctor said he had to, Sunny keeps finding hidden boxes of cigarettes. The only other people around are senior citizens, until Sunny meets the son of one of the landscapers. He introduces her to the world of comic books, and she finally has someone to play with.
Sunny struggles with why she was sent to Florida, and the secret she is keeping. Her older brother, who was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, punched her by accident during a fight with their father. Sunny thinks she was sent away because of that. She confronts her grandfather about his smoking and says she is tired of keeping secrets.
The story lines — both humorous and touching — are beautifully told. The illustrations manage to really capture Sunny’s moods from happy to very angry. The book raises the issue of substance abuse and the need for adolescents to know it’s okay to reach out to others and talk about it. Secrets are not okay, and this story just might help open the door for some child to realize that.
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