Thursday, October 08, 2015

#GNCelebration -- Sunny Side Up

Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.

The winner of last week's give-away here on A Year of Reading is...Kim Haines! We'll be contacting you, Kim!

by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Graphix/Scholastic, 2015

Back at the end of August, Franki wrote about the AMAZING podcast that Colby Sharp and Travis Yonkers created, called The Yarn. Over the course of eight episodes, Sharp and Yonkers explored every aspect of the making of Sunny Side Up.

We both loved the book, and the podcast gave us fascinating insight into all kinds of back story from a variety of points of view. We couldn't wait to see how the book would be received by its intended audience -- middle grade readers.

Yesterday, I sat down with four of my 5th grade girls who have read the book and asked them what they thought of it.

Before I tell you what they said about Sunny Side Up, I should tell you about the class' conversation about our next read aloud. Earlier this week, we finished The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, and we were discussing the ending and the themes. Specifically, we were talking about the power of reading books with hard, emotional topics. I told them that perhaps I would choose a book that was emotionally a little lighter for our next read aloud, and they protested...LOUDLY. They clamored for another book that nearly broke their hearts, that made them sit on the edges of their seats gasping, that caused them to grapple with hard life issues. That was exactly what I hoped for with The Honest Truth. I wanted our read aloud and our classroom community to be a safe place to think about and talk about a book that wasn't all sunshine and roses. I never would have guessed, though, how hungry they would be for more of that after one book full.

Because of this, I wasn't at all surprised that my readers loved Sunny Side Up. They absolutely got that although it is a full color graphic novel with the word SUNNY on the cover, it's actually the story of a dark time in a family's life. They knew why Sunny was in Florida with her grandpa (they could turn to the exact page in the text where the reader is told outright). And they could name specific chapters that they loved -- one cited "Terrific" because her mom had told her about "old fashioned things" like the "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific" ad campaign from "a long time ago," another turned right to the chapter, "Big Al" where Sunny leaves the golf course pond in quite a windmilling walk-on-water hurry after meeting the local alligator while salvaging lost golf balls for 25 cents apiece. One girl loved the flashbacks that slowly revealed why Sunny and her family aren't going to the beach house as planned (and I loved her for knowing, as a 10 year-old reader, how Jenni Holm had structured her narrative).

None of the girls read the authors' note in the back of the book, so they had only wondered if maybe this was a true story; they hadn't realized it was memoir until I told them. But I don't think that mattered to their understanding.

If you haven't read this graphic novel,  you simply must. If you haven't listened to the podcast, you simply must. This is an amazing time to be a middle grade reader, and even if you're long past that age, you owe it to your younger self to dive into the books you didn't know you were missing, but that you would have loved. Sunny Side Up is definitely one of those.


  1. I cracked up when the ladies gave Sunny the macrame toilet paper/doll/thing! I think I have a few of those from my great-grandmother!
    It is an important story and one to talk about. I think it's important to not shy away from the conversations and letting kids see what families can look like.
    Ugh, the author's note... why is it every kid skips it? Although I'm pretty sure I did as a kid too :)

  2. I read this one after my 9 yro niece did (she spotted it in my stuff before I could read it). Not sure she got everything but I know she enjoyed it at her level.

  3. We read this book in September and simply loved it --I think it is one of my favorite GN ever. The layer of meaning and the use of this structure for this story is so powerful. Imissed the author's note - so I will go back and read it and listen to the podcast. Thank you for sharing this book!
    Clare and Tammy

  4. Love it that the kids clamored for another story that broke their hearts! I read THE HONEST TRUTH this summer and it broke my heart, too, and put it back together. Good to know about SUNNY SIDE UP, which I did judge by its cover, but will now search it out on your recommendation!


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