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This heartwarming story has the perfect blend of big adventure, big questions, and big feelings. It would be a great read-aloud book for the whole family.
Set in the northern Minnesota wilderness, a timeless novel about a boy and his imaginary dog explores the legacy of guilt and blame—and what really constitutes a family.
Newbery Honoree Marion Dane Bauer evokes the “summer that changed everything” in the life of a boy growing up without a mother. Since as far back as Ben can remember, it’s been him, his devoted dad, and Sunshine—Ben’s little dog, who rarely leaves Ben’s side. It was Mom who did the leaving, and Ben’s about to spend a whole week with his suddenly present mother in the wilds of northern Minnesota. On the remote island she calls home, Ben will learn to canoe, weather the elements, and weigh a burning question: when will she come back to where she belongs? A must-read for dog lovers, children of divorce, and the imaginative and outdoorsy, Sunshine is a poignant, ultimately hopeful story about self-discovery, facing big realities, and finally, forgiving the things—and people—you can’t forget.
About the Author
Marion Dane Bauer is an award-winning author of more than one hundred books for young people, including the Newbery Honor Book On My Honor and The Stuff of Stars. A former faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, she now writes full-time. Marion Dane Bauer lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Richly character driven, immersive, evocative, and painfully sad, this effort can’t fail to move young readers. . . . An outstanding exploration of childhood trauma from a masterful author. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
With a deeply sympathetic protagonist, deftly drawn adult characters, and a skillfully crafted narrative structure, this is a profoundly affecting read. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
That Ben is hiding his anger beneath a multitude of fears feels authentic, and his deep need for the adoring Sunshine will resonate for dog lovers. Descriptive passages of the islands and the trio’s adventures in the Minnesota wilderness are sure to appeal to outdoorsy readers. But the central theme of the book, Ben’s sense of loss and abandonment, informs every part of the narrative as he vacillates between trying to connect with his mother and the anger that’s expressed in his shrugging off her touch. . . . A moving story about a boy and his dog and the solace a pet, real or imagined, can bring. —School Library Journal
Bauer offers an imaginative and emotionally compelling take on the story of a boy and his dog here. Ben’s confusion over his mother’s departure and his desperation for the normality he thinks her return will bring are keenly and believably drawn, and even young readers new to the idea of symbolism will appreciate how the adorable and adoring Sunshine serves as more than just an imaginary friend. —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Book groups will thrive with this title, as there is much character development and action upon which to reflect. This would be a strong title to consider for parent engagement as well. —School Library Connection
It’s a tribute to Ms. Bauer’s skill as a writer that she allows the reader to share Ben’s divided state of mind. We know that Sunshine doesn’t exist, and at some level Ben knows it too, yet through him we can see and feel her. . . . When Sunshine slips out of Ben’s control, her defiance puts Ben in genuine danger. Ultimately he will have to choose between holding on to an imagined reality or accepting the painful truth that his mother reveals in this touching story of grief and forgiveness for readers ages 8-12. —The Wall Street Journal
“A boy, his dog, a family grown apart, a haunting island setting—in this story driven by a child’s big heart, every impulse and tail wag feels utterly true.” —Uma Krishnaswami, author and Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee
“In the beautiful Sunshine, a child spends a week on a remote northern island with the mother who abandoned him, determined to win her back. This almost unthinkably painful situation turns revelatory as both child and mother gradually realize their similarities. As in all of Marion Dane Bauer’s work, the graceful flow and cadence of her language convey a story that pierces the heart with pain and redemption in equal measure.” —Alison McGhee, New York Times best-selling author
“Master storyteller Marion Dane Bauer gives us this luminous story of a boy and his mother and the dog that connects them. It’s about the islands we each carry in our hearts. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about the redeeming power of love, both real and imagined.” —Kathi Appelt, author of the Newbery Honor Book The Underneath
“Set deep in the wilds of northern Minnesota, this beautifully written novel explores the bonds among a boy, the mother who left him long ago, and a dog like none we’ve ever seen. Sunshine gives us hope that we can find ways to bear devastating grief . . . until we grow wise enough to understand it and strong enough to forgive. Brave, honest, and full of heart, Sunshine is a book to cherish.” —Susan Fletcher, author of Journey of the Pale Bear