When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was in high school, he was part of a program that sent students to be counselors at a camp for seriously ill kids and their families. Going into, Jarrett was worried: Wouldn’t it be depressing, to be around kids facing such a serious struggle? Wouldn’t it be grim?
But instead of the shadow of death, Jarrett found something else at Camp Sunshine: the hope and determination that gets people through the most troubled of times. Not only was he subject to some of the usual rituals that come with being a camp counselor (wilderness challenges, spooky campfire stories, an extremely stinky mascot costume), but he also got a chance to meet some extraordinary kids facing extraordinary circumstances. He learned about the captivity of illness, for sure . . . but he also learned about the freedom a safe space can bring.
Now, in his follow-up to the National Book Award finalist Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett brings readers back to Camp Sunshine so we can meet the campers and fellow counselors who changed the course of his life.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I was a on a graphic novel reading kick back in 2018 and one of the ones I LOVED (& still do) is Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s graphic memoir, Hey, Kiddo, following his childhood being raised by his grandparents and being the child of a parent with addiction. Flash forward to 2023, I once again have been incorporating more graphic novels into my reading because my middle school students love them. The most popular book in my classroom library is Hey, Kiddo. I think they love that yes, it’s a graphic novel, but more importantly, deals with more serious and applicable themes. That being said, I felt like the coolest person (still do) that Scholastic sent me an advance reader’s edition of the follow-up graphic novel, Sunshine.
Sunshine follows Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s week during summer vacation in high school volunteering at a camp for kids with serious illness and their family members. Jarrett is assigned to work directly with a family whose youngest sibling, Eric, has been treated for cancer and Diego, a thirteen year old kid whose cancer forces him to be in a wheelchair.
I don’t want to get too into spoilers because just know, aside from dealing with cancer and life-threatening illness, going in that this book is an absolute must read. Jarrett forms close relationships with the children who are sick like Eric and Diego & also their family members, forming family-like relationships with them in just one week. Krosoczka’s illustrations and use of color is extraordinary as always, creating even more meaning and emotions to the story. I do recommend reading Hey, Kiddo before Sunshine #1 because everyone should be reading that book and #2 it does add more understanding to Jarrett’s character and why forming these relationships are even more meaningful to him, but nevertheless, Sunshine is written in a way that doesn’t make Hey, Kiddo mandatory reading beforehand (even though it should be!).
Overall, Sunshine is an emotion-filled must-read for its themes surrounding empathy, adversity, hope & determination. Jarrett J. Krosoczka is doing a unique tour for Sunshine with live readings of the novel with a full cast.
Sunshine comes out on April 18th, 2023.
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this copy affect my thoughts & opinions.
Have you read Hey, Kiddo or any other graphic novels by Jarrett J. Krosoczka? Is Sunshine on your TBR? What graphic novels have you enjoyed? Share in the comments
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