Swing It, Sunny

  • Swing It, Sunny
  • written by Jennifer Holm
  • illustrated by Matthew Holm
  • published by Graphix / Scholastic (2017)

Here at Roarbots HQ, graphic novels are having a moment. Quite a moment. Our bookshelves and floors are overrun with them, and it seems like the kids always have one in their hands. Not a bad problem, to be sure.

And I’d be lying if I said brother-and-sister duo Jennifer and Matthew Holm weren’t particular favorites. Their Babymouse and Squish series of books routinely come home from the school library, and Sunny Side Up was a smash hit with both kids.

Zoey even sat down with Jennifer Holm a couple years ago (at the National Book Festival) to chat about the book, its messages, and creativity. Needless to say, Swing It, Sunny has been on our shortlist of anticipated book for quite a while.

Sunny Side Up tells the story of Sunny Lewin, a young girl who spends the summer of 1976 with her grandfather in Florida. The book immediately spoke to me since it vividly recalled summer trips I took to my own grandparents in Florida during the 80s. It also deals with some serious themes, as Sunny is forced to deal with her brother’s drug and alcohol use, and she’s unable to talk about the issues openly.

Swing It, Sunny is a continuation of Sunny’s story. Summer is over, and Sunny is starting middle school. She’s dealing with the normal stress of feeling lost in a new school, there’s typical middle school drama, and her brother — who is now living away from home at a boarding school — is growing increasingly distant and angry.

It’s a lot to deal with. Thankfully, there’s also Halloween, her best friend Deb, a visit from Gramps, and new neighbor Neela to brighten up her days. And it’s Neela who’s the true surprise. Even though she’s several years older than Sunny, they get along really well, and Neela begins teaching Sunny her marching band swing flag routine.

The emotional heart of Swing It, Sunny, though, is Sunny’s relationship with her brother Dale, which is growing strained and beyond her control. This is devastating to Sunny, who feels more and more helpless as time goes on. It’s a struggle that many kids with older siblings will relate to and undoubtedly encounter in some form.

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that it ends on an optimistic and hopeful note. And we’re all eagerly anticipating a third book in the series. We can’t get enough Sunny!

As with the first book, Swing It, Sunny is a fantastic book that is absolutely all-ages appropriate . . . as long as you aren’t shy about having a meaningful discussion with your child after reading it. Highly recommended.

(Disclosure: Scholastic provided a review copy of this book. All opinions remain our own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire, StarWars.com, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.