#AA2019 Nominees Round Up, May 16 Edition

Sunny by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockard
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: March 10, 2018
ISBN: 9781508263470

Sunny, the third title in Jason Reynolds’ Track series follows almost-13 year old Sunny, a reluctant track star, wannabe dancer, and self-described “weird” kid with too many things going “boing boing” in his brain. On the day Sunny was born, his mom died from an amniotic embolism. Neither Sunny or his dad (who Sunny refers to as Darryl) has every really recovered. Sunny still feels tremendous guilt, so although he finds track boring, he runs because it pleases his father, and because his mother, a former runner, cannot. Sunny’s real passion is dancing, and with the help of his teacher Aurelia, his coach, and his teammates, Sunny discovers a way to show off his best dance moves on the track. When Sunny finally discovers a way to express himself to the world with his body, his words, previously only shared in his diary, follow suit, offering hope that he and Darryl may finally begin to heal.

Guy Lockard’s masterful performance brings Sunny to life. Lockard imbues Sunny with such personality, charm, and empathy, that Sunny truly dances off the page. His narration is perfectly paced, and manages to convey a great deal of emotion without going over the top. He authentically captures Sunny’s anger, confusion, and grief, but also his wonder and joy. Interviews with both Jason Reynolds and Guy Lockard at the end of the recording reveal that the two are close friends who grew up together with many other creative “weirdos” like Sunny, and it’s clear that they both worked to conceive this character and relate this story with great care and compassion. Sunny is a great choice for middle schoolers, whether or not they are already fans of the series. Fans of stories about young athletes with family struggles such as The Crossover and Booked by Kwame Alexander, or stories about creative kids dealing with grief like Orbiting Jupiter and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt will fall in love with Sunny.

–Jessica Hilbun Schwartz