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Sunny Side Up : A Librarian’s Perspective Review

Sunny Side Up has caused a minor stir among the Shanghai Librarians lately. It’s an adorably gorgeous book, but some of the elementary librarians are saying it’s too mature for elementary.

I don’t agree personally (I think it’s fine for upper-elementary), but I do understand the argument. Sunny’s older brother struggles with substance abuse, and it’s something Sunny has a lot of anxiety about while in Florida.

Graphic Novel
Sunny Side Up (Jennifer Holm)

AUTHOR: Jennifer Holm

ILLUSTRATOR: Matthew Holm

SERIES: Sunny, #1

PUBLICATION DATE: August 25, 2015

GENRE: graphic novel, realistic fiction, historical fiction

RECOMMENDED FOR: Professional reviewers say Grades 3-7; I'd say Grades 4-7, but some librarians do not think this should be in elementary grades at all.

SETTING: summer of 1976, Florida and Pennsylvania

THEMES: substance abuse, addiction, siblings, family problems, summer vacation, grandfathers, friendship, anxiety, retirement communities

PROTAGONIST: female, age 10, white, blonde hair

PAGES: 224

NOTES: semi-autobiographical story (author and illustrator are siblings) 

See it on Amazon

SUMMARY OF SUNNY SIDE UP

Ten-year old Sunny visits her grandfather in Vero Beach, Florida. Sunny is excited about a summer spent surfing the waves, strolling the boardwalk, and playing in the sun, but life in the retirement home isn’t as exciting as Sunny had hoped.

She is worried about her grandfather’s secret smoking habit and her older brother’s secret drinking habit.

REVIEW OF SUNNY SIDE UP

So much cuteness! I love the brightly-colored illustrations, which I think is a huge part of why my students love this book so much. Adults will love many, many 1970s references such as the Bicentennial, superhero comics, Tab Cola, station wagons with wood side-paneling, and the all-important back-to-school lunchbox selection.

Sunny’s character is endearing. It’s obvious that she is bored in Florida, but it’s also clear that she loves her grandfather and wants him to be happy and healthy.

Though Sunny Side Up has some really cute, laugh-out-loud funny scenes, it also tackles more serious issues like growing old, loneliness, misplaced guilt, substance abuse, and addiction.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Even if this were awful (it wasn’t), I would have loved it simply because my students go crazy for it. It’s perfect for all readers, especially reluctant and ESL readers. The hype is well-deserved. Sunny Side Up is a beautifully-illustrated, entertaining slice of 1976-life. More, please!

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY

I am in a Grade 6-12 library, and our four copies are constantly checked out. It’s VERY easy to booktalk–all I have to do is show it to them the cover.

RATING BREAKDOWN

  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5–love that 1976 setting
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to middle-graders: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

MATURE CONTENT

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Sunny’s grandfather secretly smokes cigarettes, and her older brother is (unsuccessfully) hiding an alcohol habit. Sunny’s parents seem to be in denial at first–they ask about the brother’s whereabouts, but do not really pursue the discussion.

MORE LIKE SUNNY SIDE UP

This is a Librarian's Perspective Review of Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis.  This is a Librarian's Perspective Review of Roller by Victoria Jamieson.

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