Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been an authoritative voice in book discovery for more than 90 years. We are honored to have received an excellent review of “The Sunscreaming Summer” by the Kirkus Review!
A girl spends a fun summer investigating a ghost and learning about the importance of sunblock in dermatologist Strugar’s series-starting graphic novel for young readers.
Every year, young Mia’s family drives from New York City to their second home in Connecticut for the first week of summer break. This time, her brother Luka’s friend Jude is coming along. The kids spend the night before the drive watching scary movies that give Luka nightmares. On the way to Connecticut, as the car passes by a cemetery, the kids all hold their breath so they don’t accidentally swallow a ghost, but Mia’s and Luka’s father doesn’t. After the boys throw rabbit poop at Mia and her Connecticut neighbor, Anya, during a tennis match (“Ugh, rabbit poop, so gross!” says Mia), the girls decide to get back at them by making them believe the father’s slip-up at the cemetery has turned him into a ghost. Luka, who’s easily frightened, and science-minded Jude spend the rest of the vacation trying to figure out if there’s a ghost in their midst. Jude comes up with increasingly convoluted ways to check the father’s temperature, but his results are muddled by outside factors. Overall, the boys’ investigation is intriguing. However, it soon takes a backseat to a sometimes clunky secondary plot of the boys battling sunburns, due to a lack of proper sun protection. Strugar competently introduces sun safety concepts into the story when the cast pays a visit to a dermatologist, Dr. Lazic, due to Luka’s sunburn. This section—which explains how to use sunblock—will be informative and accessible for young readers who have yet to visit a dermatologist or know little about the effects of too much sun exposure. Embeli’s cute, full-color cartoon art, which features a diverse cast, goes a long way to ensure that the work doesn’t come across as a didactic public service announcement. Luka pieces together a logical explanation for all of his father’s ghostlike qualities, but a fun cliffhanger ending leaves room for a sequel.
Mia’s illustrated adventures with friends and family members are sure to engage young readers.