Review: My Name is Sunshine Simpson

Written by G.M. Linton
Cover and Inside Illustrations by Fuuji Takashi
Published by Usborne

My Name is Sunshine Simpson is a beautifully heartfelt, humorous and moving story of family, friendship and community:  a story of finding your voice, a story of acceptance and a story of celebration. 

10-year-old Sunshine Simpson has spent the year getting to know new girl, Evie, after being assigned as her buddy when she joined Beeches Primary at the start of the year. She feels that they have become friends, with common interests; however, Evie seems to be becoming increasingly mean towards Sunshine, disguising her meanness behind a smile and humour, whilst projecting herself as the perfect student.  Whilst Evie shines brightly, Sunshine feels like she is fading into the background … 

Beeches Primary is celebrating its Golden Jubilee with each class hosting an assembly for their parents at the end of the summer term.  Miss Peach, Sunshine’s teacher, tells the class that their presentations will be entitled:  And this is why X is important to me.  Sunshine is disheartened and feels like she will have nothing of interest to present, nor does she like being centre stage as she is worried that she will make a fool of herself.

If anyone can make Sunshine feel brighter, it is her larger-than-life Grandad who always knows just what to say to make her feel better, and stronger.  He is encouraging, supportive and an absolute joy to be around:  he’s her biggest cheerleader when she needs picking up, and gives the BEST advice which is so empowering.  But something is not right with her Grandad … he is taking day time naps, and is getting weaker … are her parents keeping something from her?

My heart went out to Sunshine as she deals with a tricky friendship at school, with the pressure she has put on herself, with the stress of having to perform in her school assembly and with changes at home.  Will Sunshine find her voice, her pride and her confidence, despite all the things that are going wrong in her life?  I absolutely adored Sunshine who is an incredibly likeable young girl:  warm, honest and kind-hearted, but struggling to believe in herself, and losing her self-confidence.  She is not perfect, and makes mistakes, which she accepts and learns from, and I think this fallibility makes her even more endearing.  This is a story that will resonate with many young readers and will encourage empathetic discussions about belonging, identity, friendships and family.

It is so wonderful to see the loving, close relationships within Sunshine’s family, including her extended family.  The twinzies, Peter and Lena, are absolutely adorable. Her parents, and Grandad, offer such great life-affirming advice and encourage Sunshine to believe in herself, and find her path.  Grandad Bobby is the most amazing role model for Sunshine, having come from Jamaica as part of the Windrush Generation, and made a life for himself and his family in England whilst celebrating his heritage, and grabbing the adventures that life has to offer. 

This is a story that shines brightly and warms the heart!  It is both poignant and uplifting and sings a song of being proud of who you are, and finding the courage to be yourself.  I cannot recommend this gorgeous book enough – perfect for readers of 9+ – and definitely one for school and class libraries.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne Publishing for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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