Sunshine cover
Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer

By Marion Dane Bauer
Candlewick, 2021
208 pages

Ages 8-11

Ben, a “what-if kid” with many worries and fears, is spending a week with his mother, who left him when he was three years old, in her off-the-grid cabin on a small island in northern Minnesota. Ben has his imaginary dog, Sunshine, to keep him company, and he also has a plan: By the end of the week, after his mom has gotten to know and like him, he’ll ask her to come home to stay. But Ben keeps messing things up. He shrugs his mom’s arm off his shoulders. He accidentally endangers them as they observe a mother bear and her cub. He can’t prevent flashes of anger from cropping up. While exploring on his own one afternoon, Ben, who is white, finds himself desperately lost in the woods, and worst of all, Sunshine has disappeared. That night, an ensuing catastrophe causes Ben to wonder whether he has ruined things irrevocably between himself and his mother–and Sunshine. This heartbreaking and sensitively written depiction of childhood trauma and the cycle of abuse offers no easy resolutions, but a conversation about the day mother left son provides hope, and a chance for the two to begin healing. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center