Saving Sunshine, written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Shazleen Khan, examines the complexity of familial and cultural identities in relationship to the various roles of each character. While the story is premised on saving a loggerhead turtle nicknamed “Sunshine,” that act seems secondary to everything else going on here. Pre-teen/teen twins Zara and Zeeshan Aziz are at that age where they constantly annoy one another, and parents Bilal and Rasheeda, both doctors, have hit their limits with the bickering. On a conference trip where Dr. Rasheeda is being recognized for her work in pediatrics, the twins have their phones taken away as punishment and must not separate when their parents are off conferencing. Pure torture! But the youths find activities to occupy themselves, ways to tolerate one another, and in the end, support and encourage one another’s interests. Layers are added to the story with flashbacks, represented in sepia-toned imagery, filling in details that help explain why the characters behave the way they do, and peeling back judgments even the reader may have made before fully understanding the whole picture. This work offers a treasure trove of topics for discussion with an overarching message of the difficult but important act of standing up and standing firm – both for oneself as well as for others.
Saving Sunshine written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Shazleen Khan. First Second, July 2023.
Reviewer bio: Denise Hill is Editor of NewPages.com and reviews books she chooses based on her own personal interests.