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Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, with color by Lark Pien. Scholastic, 2015. ages 9 and up

"Miss Sniff!
Miss Sniff!

Hi, Mrs. Levarski.
What's going on?
Miss Sniff ran away!
I haven't seen her since
last night! Would you
look for her?
Who's Miss Sniff?
Her cat."

Substance abuse affects many; it also has a devastating effect on those who love the abusers. In an note at the end of their book, Matt and Jennifer Holm explain:

"Sometimes it's hard to be a kid. It can be even harder
when someone you love has a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

Like Sunny, we had a close relative who had serious
issues with substance abuse. As children, we were
bystanders to this behavior and yet it affected our
whole world. It made us feel ashamed and embarrassed
and scared and sad. Most of all, it was something that
we felt we had to keep secret."

This book shows their readers that it can happen in any family, that it is sad and scary, that is all right to feel confused about it all - and perfectly fine to want to talk about it.

Summer vacation for Sunny is definitely not what she was expecting. When we meet her, she is at the airport in Florida waiting for her Gramps to meet her. Expecting fun in the sun and a trip to Disney World, she is disappointed when her days are spent running tedious errands with her grandfather, sleeping on an uncomfortable and very squeaky pull-out bed, and visiting with the elderly people who are his neighbors in the retirement community.

It's pretty bland, that is, until she meets Buzz. His father is the groundskeeper.  Buzz loves comic books and passes on that love to Sunny. They read together, search for lost golf balls and lost cats. In doing so, they make enough money to buy more comics. It's a win-win situation.

Always on her mind are the events of the past year. In a series of flashbacks, we learn more about Sunny's family. She loves her older brother, and fears his behaviors. When he is taking drugs, he is careless, impulsive and hurts Sunny without knowing he has. As the family intervenes after a violent altercation, they make the decision to send Sunny to Gramps for the summer rather than take a family trip to the beach as planned.

The storytelling is clear, and sensitive to all. It shows the devastating effects of substance abuse on the abuser and on the family. It's funny, emotional, and hopeful. It encourages those who read it to recognize that there is power in sharing feelings and emotions. The graphic novel format is the perfect choice for telling this story. The use of labels, dialogue and telling, silent reactions have a critical impact.

Now, please spend time with Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp and learn how the whole book came together from start to finish in The Yarn ... it is as brilliant as the book itself.  Enjoy!

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