Luckily, Sunny isn’t the only kid around. She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they’re having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains -- why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won’t be secret to Sunny much longer.
Review: Sunny Side Up is a graphic novel that is inspired by the sister and brother Holms' life. Set largely during the summer of 1976, ten year old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin had been looking forward to spending her summer at the shore, but her parents have decided to ship her off to Florida so she can stay with her "Gramps" at his retirement community. The retirement community is the last place Sunny ever thought of spending her time off, but things improve after she befriends the groundskeeper’s son, comics-obsessed Buzz. The two spend their time doing odd jobs such as finding lost pets for spending money and discussing classic superhero dilemmas particularly about their limits and short comings when it comes to saving the people they love. This simple question leads us to a series of flashbacks that slowly reveal the truth surrounding Sunny's sudden visit to her grandfather. Her teenage brother, who she has always viewed as a superhero, is struggling with substance abuse, and Sunny is convinced that she made the problem worse—a misconception Gramps lovingly corrects.
Sunny Side Up is not about a discussion of drug abuse, but rather the awkward situation when kids stumble upon or suddenly made aware of a tough topic without any answers or context of the situation from the adults. Sunny's parents don't talk to her about her brother, but she knows something is wrong because she can read their facial features and body language in the wordless panels. You can see how the guilt that Sunny carries with her grows and hangs over her like a cloud until it finally dissipates when Gramps finally sits down and talks to her.
The illustrations are easy to read and expressive. Straightforward dialogue and clear panels make it easy to follow and read. An author's note at the end of the graphic novel explains the author's and illustrator's motivation for writing Sunny Side Up. This graphic novel would be a good discussion starter when parents need to discuss a serious topic with their child.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: There are allusions to drug usage though not explicit but enough clues are given to get the point across in the graphic novel. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.
If you like this book try: Ghosts by Raina Telgeimer