About Sunshine Elementary
Title: Sunshine Elementary, Book One
Author: Nina Saporta
Release Date: Nov 5, 2019
Synopsis: A refreshingly positive chapter book series that portrays kids in a positive light as they navigate elementary school using kindness and problem solving skills.
Target Age Group: 7-12 years
Topics: Kindness, engineering, friendship, problem-solving, inclusivity, bravery
The first book in the Sunshine Elementary chapter book series follows the main characters—Hanny, Wilder, Winnie and Jonah—as they journey through an eventful first day at their brand new school by the shore. From meeting their warm, colorful teacher, Mr. Tenderheart, to creating their own class rules, the morning starts off greater than anyone could have imagined… and only gets better from there!
Woven into this fun and heart-warming story are examples of children navigating through situations using kindness and problem solving skills. When Hanny notices Vida, an Afghan refugee, sitting alone at lunch, she remembers what her mom had taught her: “It only takes one person to make someone not alone,” and shares in a moment both she and Vida will never forget. At recess, when the students discover shiny rocks (“crystals”) buried in the ground, it is Vida who makes a drastic gesture to Olive that starts a chain reaction of kindness. It’s no surprise that when the classmates rescue a bird’s nest that’s fallen from the tree, they come together to problem solve using Hanny’s Maker Cart supplies, engineering a pulley to put it back on the branch. The evening ends with the four friends leaving their worries on the shore as they dash into the ocean, side-by-side, to go surfing.
Sunshine Elementary author, Nina Saporta, believes in normalizing and embracing the beauty that lies within different family structures, ethnicities, disabilities, and backgrounds, without these being the characters’ defining characteristics. She also believes that children are intrinsically kind, capable, independent problem-solvers, who deserve to be portrayed as such in the books they read.
Meet some of the characters in Sunshine Elementary!
Adorned with colorful bracelets, this kind-hearted engineer and amazing friend is always looking out for others.
At times anxious and sensitive, Jonah is a kind friend who is courageous enough to push himself out of his comfort zone.
Leaving a lot of room for personal growth and insight, Lee often acts angry or annoyed in social situations, but deep down he wants nothing more but to be included.
HENRY AND HOLDEN
Henry and Holden are twin brothers who have a funny sense of humor, with most jokes relating to them being twins.
With his cool, relaxed nature, Wilder is mostly found on a surfboard or skateboard beside his big sister and best friend, Izzy.
Warm and charismatic, Mr. Tenderheart loves teaching his students lessons of life, self-discovery and engaging academics.
A lover of punk music and all things adventurous, Coleman shows his personality through the many stickers on his wheelchair.
No wonder Wilder looks up to Izzy, she’s as cool as they get! Entering middle school, Izzy is a great skater, surfer and sister.
With her witty jokes and great sense of humor, Winnie’s joyful personality keeps everyone around her smiling and laughing.
Quiet and kind, brave and heroic, Vida is adjusting to life in the US after resettling as a refugee from Afghanistan, with the help of new friends.
Petite and shy with red hair and freckles, Olive is a sweet friend who understands the importance of being kind, brave and giving.
A brand new building, Sunshine Elementary is cheerful and bright with tall windows and lined with beautiful trees. The school is filled with love.
When my daughter was a toddler, there was no shortage of beautiful children's books available for us to read together. They were often poetically or comically written, adorned with lovely illustrations, and almost always had a positive message. These books reassured her that she is loved. That she is capable. That she could do anything. They reflected the goodness within her and the great potential that lay ahead.
Then, as children tend to do, she got older. She started reading independently when she hit elementary school, which was an exciting milestone! Chapter books started showing up that I had never heard of, borrowed from school or gifted from grandparents. These books were written for her age group and had sat atop mainstream bestseller lists, so I anticipated them being a longer, slightly more mature version of the beautiful children’s books we had come to know and love.
This is where the emoji with the eyes bugging out would go.
As I started getting to know the books that had begun filling up our bookshelves, I was shocked and disheartened by the negative way the children were portrayed. I saw a pattern of characters hating school, being unkind to their classmates, and generally, relentlessly, misbehaving. It felt to me that the books were trying to appeal to the worst potential in kids, rather than their greatest.
I’m not denying that kids change as they get older. They tend to get a bit louder, messier, more opinionated, and more assertive in elementary school, but they’re also navigating complex social situations for the first time, becoming more self-aware, and testing out their newfound independence. It can be a confusing time for them. But none of that makes them bad. Through all of this, they are still the same amazing, intrinsically kind and capable kids they’ve always been.
We’ve advanced as a society to say, “No More!” to bullying, to be more accepting and tolerant. As teachers and parents, we work so hard to teach children right from wrong, to be courteous and respectful. We help them to feel empowered, capable, and confident. To be kind. Yet somehow, these values don't seem to be reflected in the mainstream books available for this age group.
Imagine if we used the influence that books have over their readers to inspire kids with examples of positive social interactions, working together to problem solve, and being kind to one another. No drama, no negativity, no fantasy, no outdated stereotypes. Just relatable kids going about their day in elementary school being awesome humans to one another.
If the experiences kids read about in books plant seeds, why not plant great ones?
Messages in the book:
It only takes one person to make a difference.
Kids are kind.
There are many ways to engineer a solution to a problem.
We shouldn’t let our fears stop us from having experiences.
When kids act out, sometimes they just need extra kindness from others.
There are many different types of families.
Kids are so capable and independent when given the space to be.
We learn a lot from the “Pits” of our day.
Surfing is really fun.