Sunny Side Up

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Sunny Side Up Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Funny, moving graphic novel takes on teen substance abuse.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in 1976, Sunny Side Up captures life in a Florida retirement community during the nation's bicentennial. The graphic novel can serve as a springboard for discussion on how to help family members with drug or alcohol problems.

Positive Messages

If someone in your family is having trouble with drugs or alcohol, it's OK to talk about it and seek help. Keeping secrets to keep the peace is not always the best way to handle things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sunny Lewin is a bright, friendly, mostly cheerful grade-school girl who tries to please the people around her. She tends to keep any bad feelings bottled up inside, however, and she feels responsible for keeping other people's secrets. She eventually learns to express her anger and disappointment, which ultimately makes her feel better.


Sunny's teen brother, Dale, shows up drunk and stoned at a family picnic and tries to punch their father, accidentally hitting another family member instead.


Sunny's friend Buzz reads DC and Marvel superhero comics. Sunny rides the attractions at Disney World.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sunny's grandfather sneaks cigarettes when he thinks she isn't looking. Sunny's brother smokes, drinks, and takes drugs. He makes Sunny promise not to tell on him.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sunny Side Up is a funny and affecting middle-grade graphic novel by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, the sister-and-brother team behind the Babymouse and Squish graphic-novel series for younger readers. Here, 10-year-old Sunny Lewin unexpectedly has to spend the summer of 1976 with her grandfather at his Florida retirement community. She learns some hard lessons about disappointment, bottling up feelings, and being honest about family troubles. Violence is limited to a punch that hurts more emotionally than physically. Sunny's grandfather smokes, and her teen brother smokes, drinks, and takes drugs.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysophyalaurensalazar October 7, 2020


Adult Written byCarrieBeth76 June 14, 2016

Sunny Side Up

My 10 year old daughter and I loved this book. Sunny is sent to stay with her grandfather in FL in the summer of 1976. Sunny expects Disney World but her grandf... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 18, 2015

Why I Don't Suggest Sunny Side Up

I don’t Suggest Sunny Side Up to any child under age 13. Even though I’m 11 I thought this book would be like Smile and Sisters. This book focusses a lot abou... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 8, 2020

very deep

This book is really good for kids who are mature. I think for kids who don't under stand about drinking and drugs yet might be confused. I read this when I... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Sunny Lewin arrives in Florida in the summer of 1976, she assumes she'll be spending her days at the beach or at Disney World. Life at her grandfather's retirement village turns out to be not very exciting. Luckily, she's able to make friends with Buzz, the only other kid in the area, and they have adventures rescuing cats, reading comics, and swapping golf balls for cash. But Sunny is carrying around a lot of secrets, which eventually come spilling out. SUNNY SIDE UP explores how to make the best of an uncomfortable situation.

Is it any good?

With sensitivity and good humor, this graphic novel provides a portrait of a loving family negotiating some difficult times. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm capture the excitement, boredom, and absurdity of an unexpected trip to Florida. Sunny is a likable and adventurous main character, and her interactions with her friend Buzz and her grandfather ring with well-observed detail. The serious topics of tobacco, alcohol, and drug addiction are handled with finesse.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why comics and graphic novels are so popular. What kinds of stories are best suited to the medium?

  • What kinds of conflicts arise when people from different generations live together? What kinds of accommodations can be made so everyone is more comfortable?

  • If a member of the family is abusing alcohol or drugs, what can be done to help him or her? Is it better to keep the situation a secret or to find ways to talk about it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels

Themes & Topics

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