In SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE, the third book in brother-sister author team Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm’s middle grade graphic novel Sunny series, we return to suburban Philadelphia in 1977 so Sunny can navigate… dun dun dunnnnn!… seventh grade.
She has armor and a sword for a reason.
Thank you Kidlit Exchange and Scholastic for the ARC.
In a move you can kiiiiiind of see coming in SWING IT, SUNNY, Sunny struggles to cling to her best friend when Deb becomes lame and Sunny becomes cool. And by “cool” I mean into Dungeons & Dragons, which back matter says was a favorite of Jennifer and Matthew growing up.
When Sunny learns in a teen magazine that she’s Barely Groovy, she tries to follow BFF Deb’s lead to become cooler in seventh grade. The only problem? The cute boy across the street has invited both girls to play D&D with a couple of the guys. Sunny loves the game, while a mortified Deb would rather be putting her hair on rollers and listening to Bee Gees records.
Sunny tries to keep up with Deb and her new girly-girl friends… but can’t hang and be comfortable.
In the “sad rainy day/violin music” point of the book, Sunny tells her new friends she can’t play D&D anymore and slams the door suddenly. Unfortunately, making tissue paper flowers for the school dance with Deb and her new girlfriends is boring and about a 2 on the Groovy-Meter.
Then Sunny gets too uncomfortable at the Spring Fling dance, and hears the roll of a dodecahedronal dice in the hallway…
- I remember Dungeons & Dragons getting a bad rap in the 80s/early 90s as Satanic. While I personally have never played, D&D is portrayed here as a geeky, fun storytelling game only.* (Is D&D still a caveat, or am I just old?)
- While the first two Sunny books (link to SUNNY SIDE UP) dealt with older brother Dale’s being shipped off to military school to deal with violent behavior and unspecified substance abuse, SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE takes a lighter turn toward Sunny’s coming into her own and balancing being true to herself with the shifting friendships of middle school.
- Sunny is such a relatable character that I was compelled to go back and read this book’s two predecessors within a couple days. Enough said. (If anyone was wondering, Dale is doing better; he joined the Navy and somehow got sent to San Diego not Vietnam.)
- Sunny and Deb’s probable friendship breakup, while sad, is relatable and well-rendered. In the words of Sunny’s surrogate older sister Neela, “It sounds like Deb wants different things than you right now. It’s okay.” That’s a message not enough kids seem to hear.
- Groovy 70s/80s nostalgia for days; including extensive accounts of kids having fun without cell phones!
SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE will be released Oct 1 from Scholastic (look for it in your September book order!)
* It’s worth mentioning that during that time, I also recall that group of moms being morally panicked about debit cards too for some reason, so there is that.