Swing It, Sunny
Swing It, Sunny is the sequel to Sunny Side Up, a powerful children’s graphic novel about coping with family changes. That book had Sunny visiting her grandfather in Florida and learning about the problems her older brother Dale struggles with.
This one deals with the followup — Sunny is back home, trying to go about everyday life while Dale’s absence continually warps the family structure. He’s been sent to a military boarding school, which he resents, so even when he visits, it’s not like it was. She’s no longer as much a part of his life as she’d like to be, although a new friend across the street helps by giving her an athletic outlet.
This volume, due to the way it’s structured around various incidents with friends and family, is more episodic, with short chapters that jump us through Sunny’s suburban 70s life. They add up to an uncomplicated flow for younger readers, a book that’s able to be picked up and put down easily, with punchlines at the end of most chapters. There’s a cute baby brother, too, whose goofy actions lighten the mood.
Artist Matthew Holm has an odd tick of often surrounding characters, mostly Sunny, with little parenthetical lines that to my eyes makes it look like she’s shaking or vibrating. Here’s an example, from the first chapter. It reintroduces the characters as though they’re on a sitcom, since TV comparisons are a recurring theme.
Writer Jennifer L. Holm (they’re siblings) anchors events around a lot of popular culture, with callouts to General Hospital (which the girls make fun of for all the kissing), Swamp Thing comics, The Six Million Dollar Man, Donny & Marie, Gilligan’s Island, and The Brady Bunch. Escapist fantasy and light entertainment helps Sunny cope. (I wondered why it was necessary to explain all of these to the reader, then I realized the target audience was likely born 30 years or so after many of these shows went off the air. Plus, that way we get a caption of a drawing of a Pet Rock that says, “The 1970s are crazy!”)
Otherwise, the art is deceptively simple, approachable, and easy to read with straightforward storytelling and plenty of clear markers of emotional reactions. I think it’ll work best for those familiar with the first book, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy seeing more of how Sunny copes with a difficult situation while still having faith in her family. Swing It, Sunny is due out September 12. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)