Can you top an award wining memoir? In my opinion Jarrett J. Korsoczka just did. The author and artist of Hey Kiddo, which garnered a number of awards, including a National Book Award Finalist, continued his story, describing the week he spent at Camp Sunshine, which was for families and their children who were seriously ill, including many cancer patients.
Sunshine: A Graphic Novel
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
April 2023, Scholastic Graphix
Have your tissue handy. You won’t cry until the end, but the book won’t leave you with a dry eye. My tears didn’t immediately come. Just a mist at first. I closed the book and was left with a very deep sad feeling and only later when I was alone did I suddenly start to bawl. Heaving sobs. I don’t know many people, even young ones, who have not been touched by cancer.
Though reading about kids with cancer and terminal illness may seem depressing, the book has a tremendously hopeful and positive spin to it.
When Jarrett is 16, he volunteers for a week at Camp Sunshine with 5 other kids in his high school. It’s everyone’s first time volunteering, so he isn’t sure what to expect. He’s given the assignment to be a one-on-one with 13-year-old Diego who is terminal with a brain tumor. And he is assigned a family at dinner, whose son Eric has Leukemia.
While Jarrett fumbles at first, he quickly is able to connect. When Diego is reluctant to join, Jarrett draws for him. Building that rapport eventually allowed Diego to open up and enjoy himself more. And not only did Jarrett click with Eric, but he bonded with the entire family. By the end of the week, Jarrett understands while the seasoned volunteers said that they get out of it more than they give.
While the end of the story is gut-wrenching, Jarrett’s attitude towards volunteerism and how it impacted his life is empowering. I hope young readers will take away how much it changed the course of Jarrett’s life. If readers have never picked up Hey Kiddo, they will get enough back story to understand that his young life was fraught with challenges. Giving of himself helped set the course of his adult life.
The artwork, which will be printed in full color, uses hues of black, white, and yellow. The depictions of the children who are sick are not overly frightening but keep a realistic feel. Despite the dark overcast in the story, the artwork is bright and cheerful.
This will be an excellent addition to any shelf. Hopefully, young readers will be empowered by the message and not frightened about how hard life can be, even for the innocent.
Filed under: Reviews
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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