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review 2017-04-21 18:11
Sunny Side Up (graphic novel) by Jennifer & Matthew Holm
Sunny Side Up - Jennifer L. Holm,Matthew Holm

Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer.  At first she thought Florida might be fun -- it is  the home of Disney World, after all.  But the place where Gramps lives is no amusement park.  It’s full of . . . old people.  Really old people. Luckily, Sunny isn’t the only kid around.  She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they’re having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors.  But the question remains -- why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place?  The answer lies in a family secret that won’t be secret to Sunny much longer. . .





It's the year of America's Bicentennial celebration (1976) and Pennsylvania preteen Sunny Lewin cannot be more excited for the family's summer trip to their beach house! But when her older brother's demons end up ruining family time at the fireworks show, Sunny's parents quickly decide it would be better for her to spend the summer visiting her grandfather in West Palm Beach, Florida. 


Not only is Sunny still reeling from the family drama brought on by her brother's struggle with alcoholism, but she's also not sure what to do with herself while trying to acclimate to her grandfather's retirement community, Pine Palms. Pine Palms has strict rules limiting the number of pets or children allowed on the property, so it's not so easy for young Sunny to find her place. Not to mention everyone is old and the place itself is about 2 hours away from Disney World! What's a kid to do?!


Luckily, it's not long before she does run into another child her age, Buzz. Buzz and Sunny are soon sharing a love of comic book stories as well as developing a little side business of tracking down "secret" (aka not technically allowed) pet cats of Pine Palms. Just as Sunny starts to settle into a "bloom where you are planted" mentality about the retirement community, she's struck by yet another struggle within the family -- her grandfather trying to hide his smoking habit from her. This is the last straw for Sunny. She is tired of trying to shoulder everyone's secrets and addictions on her small shoulders! Sunny gives the adults in her life a wake-up call that she is a child and needs to be allowed to experience these fleeting moments of innocence before it's too late. 


Adults that grew up in the 70s and 80s will have great nostalgic fun with this one! I myself was more of the 80s-90s era, but I could still spot plenty of pop culture references worked into the artwork: the unmistakeable 70s stylin' of the characters' clothing, Donny Osmond posters on the wall, loading up the station wagon to go to Sears to do school shopping, Sunny browsing lunchboxes with a Holly Hobby design faintly noticeable among the selections... it was just fun to make a sort of "I Spy" game of it all! 



The artwork style itself also brought to mind similar lines and colors seen in Sunday cartoons like For Better Or Worse and LuAnn, maybe even Zits. The coloring in Sunny Side Up is done by none other than Lark Pien, who also did the coloring for the Printz Award winning graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang as well as Yang's follow-up work, the duology Boxers & Saints.


Even if the timeframe isn't your childhood era, there are some universal topics addressed within Sunny's story. I got a particular kick out of her starting school and getting a teacher her older brother had, and having to get the scowl when the teacher makes the connection between her and the troublemaker brother. O.M.G., do I ever remember going through that myself! LOL.



No doubt, Sunny Side Up touches upon some tough themes for young readers: a grandfather's secret cigarette habit, a brother's struggle with alcoholism, certain residents of Pine Palms showing signs of the early stages of dementia, even talk of the Cuban Revolution / immigration issues of the 1970s gets thrown into the mix.



Possibly uncomfortable reading for the young ones, but there is a point to it all, and an important one at that! In a brief author's note at the end, brother / sister author team Jennifer and Matthew Holm reveal that the idea for this graphic novel stemmed from their own tough childhood experiences. They figured there were likely other kids out there who have had or are having similar struggles that need to find stories they can relate to, stories that will possibly help direct them toward the help they need to get through these kinds of challenges. While some moments within this story are undoubtedly hard-hitting, the Holm siblings leave readers with a sense of optimism for the future and a reassurance that there is help and hope out there if you just stay the course and, as Sunny's grandpa reminds her, "keep your sunny side up!"



Fans of YA literature, note the shout-out to David Levithan in the acknowledgments section at the end! 

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review 2017-03-08 16:29
Full of Beans Book Review
Full of Beans - Jennifer L. Holm

The audio book for this was fantastic. I loved that it was set during the great depression. The characters are fun and quirky and very enjoyable to read about. This really reminds me a bit of A Year Down Yonder (it's just as good). I think its one kids will love. And if you need a book that's a fun listen as well for a road trip, choose Full of Beans, the whole family will love it. 

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review 2016-11-02 14:11
Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes - Jennifer L. Holm,Matthew Holm
Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes - Jennifer L. Holm,Matthew Holm
  1. No doubt there is a market for Babymouse early childhood picture books, especially holiday ones, but I wasn’t wowed. I love cupcakes, but as a parent I couldn’t help visualizing the result of all that cupcake-eating, and it isn’t a pretty visual. Although Babymouse in a sleeper, rather than her familiar dress, is an image of great cuteness.


Library copy

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text 2016-09-14 16:42
Amazing For Kids Under Under 10
Babymouse #11: Dragonslayer - Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm,Matt Holm

This short novel is about a little female mouse who has a great imagination and really likes adventure.The story starts in school where Babymouse is daydreaming while in class and she is dreaming about her being a knight in shining armor and how she slays dragons when suddenly the teacher yells at her and interrupts her from her dream.The teacher then offers babymouse a chance to join the math group and babymouse wants to refuse but she is shy,so the teacher takes her silence as a yes.Babymouse joins the group and msut now make a big journey on learning math and must earn the trust of her fellow teamates,while babymouse is on the team she decides to convert the class into a world of adventure so she convinces her friends that she can help,at the end of the story babymouse shows her teammates  that she has been doing something productive by being succesfull at the last challenge competing against another school.

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review 2016-08-27 20:11
Sunny Side Up
Sunny Side Up - Jennifer L. Holm,Matthew Holm

I really liked the character of Sunny as she was optimistic, caring, and she adapted to the world around her. I love her comments and her facial expressions. I can see why this graphic novel is popular amongst the middle school crowd as this novel is easy to follow with great colorful illustrations, the characters are fantastic, and it told a story that I feel that most middle school students could relate to.  The story boards inside this graphic novel vary in size which I thought were fun to follow but it was the characters and the story which make this novel stand out with me.


There is a lot happening at Sunny’s home in Pennsylvania.   There is a new baby in the house whose crying never ceases to end. There is also her older brother, who is making some bad choices in life which is affecting everyone in the household. With so much happening, her parents have decided to send her to Florida for a part of her summer vacation to visit her grandfather.   It’s Florida and Sunny has envisioned wonderful things about this trip but she soon discovers it may not be what she had hoped for.   Grandpa lives in a retirement community in West Palm Beach and the chances of finding someone under 55 to play with are going to be slim.   Grandpa’s ideas of “big plans” for the day brought smiles to my face as they brought back memories of summer vacations that I took at my grandparent’s house growing up, where their “plans for the day” included going to church, going to the grocery store or out for lunch. As Sunny arrives at her grandpa’s apartment, “the girls” upstairs bring her down a welcoming present to her and I cracked up laughing as this gift brought back so many memories of my grandmother. As Sunny unwraps her gift, I am all smiles.   A Barbie doll head greets her first which is sitting upon a crocheted body. Hidden underneath this body was a roll of toilet paper. This was priceless to me as I looked at Sunny’s facial expression and all the comments surroundings this gift. She too was speechless at her gift. It was moments like these that I loved, where I lived inside Sunny’s head, thinking I knew exactly what she was thinking, glad that the author let me have these moments without any printed words to tell me what to consider.   Living with grandpa is not easy for Sunny even though Sunny pretends it is. Sunny is good at keeping things inside, not airing her voice, she has done it at home and she continues to do it here in Florida. When she finally meets Buzz, it was entertaining when they bonded over comic books. She finally had someone her age to keep her occupied and engaged. I really thought the ending of this novel was wonderful and completed the story. This is an excellent graphic novel.

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