You know that feeling when you clutch a book to your chest and relish in the delight of reading something so lovely and wonderful and graceful? Yes, that just happened today when I finished reading Jennifer and Matthew Holm’s Sunny Side Up, a graphic novel set in the 1970s featuring Sunshine aka Sunny. I’m not surprised that it’s winning accolades and ending up on recommended reading lists.
In the vein of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, our main character is tween/teen and dealing with life. The realistic, down-to-earth kind of story that makes it an “every person” book, not for a specific subset of readers. In addition, like the other graphic novels’ illustrations, I am on board with the vivid coloring and rounded illustrations that are in stark contrast to darkly explored stories in black and white.
Sunny is staying with Grandpa in Florida for the summer and while it’s not the best fun, meeting the groundskeeper’s son who is fanatical about superheroes, provides an avenue for Sunny to find her voice. After a summer of sleeping on a squeaky, uncomfortable pull-out bed, eating dinner at 4pm, finding her grandfather’s stashes of cigarettes, and feeling like she separated her family, Sunny’s shining moment is when it all comes out. She confesses her frustrations to which her grandfather responds with the most-appropriate sentiments: he’ll stop smoking, they’ll go to Disney World, find a different bed, and that her brother’s issues are not her fault. And as their summer comes to an end, he reminder her to “keep her sunny side up”, which is an endearing sentiment that plays both on how attitude is everything and on her unique, hippie name.
Everyone should remember to keep their sunny side up.