Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Summer Shift

There are those books read in one sitting; not because they are necessarily short but because the story is completely compelling.  These books tend to have appeal to a wide audience with a range of ages due to commonality of life experiences.  A connection between generations happens.

Last week I found myself sitting in a laundromat, the last patron there late at night, as my clothes first swished and swirled in washing machines and then spun around and around in dryers.  As I finished the last page of the book I was reading my eyes filled with tears.  No matter where you are, alone or in the company of others, a great story will strike a chord in your heart.  Everything else fades away but the book.  Sunny Side Up (Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, August 25, 2015) a new graphic novel by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm is truly memorable.

Sunshine State
August 1976
West Palm Beach, Fla.

As a plane lands and the passengers depart a young girl looks for her grandfather.  They are clearly glad to see each other but you're pretty sure she would rather be someplace different.  Spending a summer vacation in a community where children and pets are not permitted is going to be challenging for Sunny.

In the third chapter we go back two months to June.  Sunny and her best friend are excited about being able to share the family vacation at the shore together.  Clearly these two are like the proverbial peas-in-a-pod.  The question now arises as to why Sunny is in Florida alone with her grandfather instead of with her family and best friend.

Chapter by chapter moving from the present back to key incidents in the late and more recent past, readers are able to piece together the story of a family in crisis but held together by the strength of their love.  As an older sibling struggles, parents intervene and a grandparent offers sanctuary and advice, we along with Sunny grow in understanding about all the situations and about each individual.  What is said does not have the same meaning for each party present.

Fortunately for Sunny a stubborn vending machine helps her meet the son of the groundskeeper at Pine Palms.  Buzz, for Buzz Aldrin, is an avid reader and collector of comic books.  His favorite characters and their stories become a means for Sunny to address her own problems.  Golf balls, Big Al and missing cats in the community (rules are meant to be broken especially by elderly residents) supply funding for Sunny and Buzz to pursue their love of comic books.

With only a few days left before Labor Day we and Sunny realize what initially looks like a disaster can turn into a bunch of fun.  The young can learn from the old and the old can remember the joys of youth.  It's never too early or too late to learn, become friends or love one another.

As I read chapter after chapter of Sunny Side Up I continued to believe I was reading fact more than fiction; every sentence felt genuine.  These characters, what they did and said, could be any one of us.  Jennifer L. Holm has a way of writing dialog which speaks directly to her readers' hearts.  We welcome the opportunity to identify with her characters.  We are touched by the sadness and tension they experience and we laugh out loud exactly when we should.  Here is a sample section of conversation between Sunny, her grandfather and two residents on a trip out for dinner.

There you are!  I'm taking you and the girls out to dinner.  Better hurry up and get dressed.
Isn't it a little early?
Early? It's already 4:00! We need to be on the road by 4:15!
(At a traffic light about to turn red...)
Punch it, Pat!
Or we'll be late!
(Standing in front of a sign which reads:
We're just in time!
Thank goodness!
Get whatever you want!
It's all delicious!
Except the creamed spinach.
Definitely avoid that.  It gave me gas last time.

The dust jacket and book case of Sunny Side Up does not convey the depth of the contents but it does reflect the title, how the title is used in the book and the growth of the characters within the pages.  On the back, to the left, we see Sunny and her grandpa standing, looking right at us, after her arrival at the airport.  Bright yellow opening and closing endpapers mirror her name.  The title page is a close-up of the text and beach ball from the pool on the front.

Matthew Holm's artwork, a series of pages and panels in varying sizes, flows together flawlessly like a motion picture.  Numerous times without words we are privy to sounds, sights, events and emotions.  To depict traumatic moments from Sunny's memory the warmth and lightness of the color palette fades to darker hues.

The facial expressions and body postures on all the characters but especially Sunny and Gramps are wonderful.  For impact, Holm zooms in on a particular aspect of important moments.  When the comic book characters are introduced to Sunny, we are treated to full page images.

I think one of the many funny segments is Sunny's introduction to Big Al.  She and Buzz are on the golf course gathering wayward golf balls for extra money.  Completely unaware Sunny is wading in a pond trying to get the twentieth golf ball.  When Buzz points out Big Al you can't help but yell out "Run, Sunny, run!"  Her travel on the water is nearly Biblical.

After reading Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm twice, I can say with confidence it gets better and better.  This sister and brother team consistently gives readers their very best and it's apparent in the narrative and illustrations of this graphic novel.  If you don't have multiple copies already, you are going to need them.

To learn more about Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  This title is one of two selected for the #SharpSchu Book Club scheduled for October 29, 2015.  Read this post by Scholastic Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher, at Watch. Connect. Read.  I Love Reading 3rd grade teacher, Colby Sharp, blogger at sharpread and teacher librarian, Travis Jonker, blogger at 100 Scope Notes have started a podcast series, The Yarn.  Season One revolves entirely around this title and the people who brought this book to us.  The episodes are as follows:

Welcome To The Yarn
Raina Telgemier
David Levithan
Phil Falco
David Saylor
Lark Pien
Matthew Holm
Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Fact or Fiction