I loved Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s first graphic novel memoir “Hey Kiddo” so much, I always recommend it to anybody to who loves graphic novels. It’s a profoundly personal and poignant story of how the author was raised by his grandparents while his mother battled addiction and his father was absent. So, I’ve had my eye on his next graphic novel memoir, titled “Sunshine,” for a while.
While this graphic novel serves as a follow-up to “Hey Kiddo,” it’s notably distinct in its story focus. It exclusively centers on Jarret’s experience at ‘Camp Sunshine,’ a summer camp for seriously ill children, all of whom are accompanied by their families. The camp provides a holiday getaway for families to relax, take a break, and escape the smells and sights of hospitals. Teenage Jarrett and his grandparents are initially skeptical that the stay might be a depressing experience, with dying children and heartbroken parents. However, Camp Sunshine turns out to be beautifully memorable, filled with talented, humorous, and sweet children, some of whom Jarrett befriends for life.
Jarrett’s art style remains consistent in both novels, and while his subdued sepia palette complemented his first graphic novel perfectly, it didn’t quite suit the tone and themes of ‘Sunshine’. I would’ve preferred more colors, especially since the memoir is all about how camp sunshine is a bright beautiful place meant as an escape for the families from their daily struggles. The dull colors make the memoir feel sadder than it really is.
On the first day of camp, Jarrett is taken by surprise when he is assigned the responsibility of looking after just one teenager named Diego, while his other school friends get to oversee groups. Given the small age gap between himself and his charge, Jarrett wonders how he can be of help to the wheelchair-bound Diego, who requires more attention than others. However, over the course of the novel, the two build a firm bond and take part in activities together, even though Diego does prove to be a bit of a challenge.
“Sunshine” offers a quick glimpse into how volunteer work for teens like Jarrett can be an eye-opener. It’s heartwarming how the author concludes the novel with anecdotes of how he maintained ongoing contact with one family he grew exceptionally close to.
Rating: 4 on 5.
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