Sunnyside Plaza

Scott Simon

Book - 2020

While helping police officers Esther and Lon investigate a suspicious death at her group home, nineteen-year-old Sal Miyake, who is mentally challenged, gains insights into herself and makes new friends.

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New York ; Boston : Little, Brown and Company 2020.
First edition
Physical Description
197 pages ; 19 cm
Main Author
Scott Simon (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Sunnyside Plaza is a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities, and Sally, the narrator of radio journalist Simon's first book for children, is the youngest resident at 19. The atmosphere is warm and supportive, and Sally is mostly content. When one of the residents dies in his sleep, two detectives come to the home to investigate. Ensuing deaths and medical incidents increase suspicion of foul play, and Sally recruits her friends to help solve the mystery. The solution is almost banal; a distributor donating canned goods has been putting new labels on long-expired cans of food, the contents of which can interact dangerously with some medication. The odyssey Sally and the others undertake to the police station has a dreamlike quality as they make a number of mostly positive contacts along the way. While the topic may seem odd for a middle-grade novel, Simon makes it work. He depicts his characters with compassion, not condescension, and not only is this hopeful, happy story accessible to middle-graders, it should appeal to older readers as well. Grades 4-8. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

NPR broadcaster and author Simon makes his children's book debut with this novel inspired by his experience, as a young man, working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. Ingenuous narrator Sally Miyake ("Sal Pal"), a resident of the Sunnyside Plaza community center, easily draws readers into her story, confiding, "I can't read, but I see, I hear, and I notice things." Fixated on numbers, she communicates her age as "8 times 2 plus 3," and believes that her long-absent mother "will be back when she can take care of me." The teen and her fellow residents instinctively support one another and provide mutual solace when two tenants die suddenly and another suffers a mysterious fall. Two detectives investigating the deaths bring untold joy into Sal Pal's life when they take her under their wing, inviting her to her first-ever baseball game and a family seder, and soliciting her help solving the deaths, given her keen perspicacity. In heartbreaking moments, Simon also lays bare the profound humiliation that Sal Pal and her friends feel when marginalized, as when a woman at the park deems "those people... crazy." A resoundingly poignant novel with an acutely intuitive and empathic protagonist. Ages 8–up. (Jan.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Living in a community center for people with disabilities, Sally teams up with a pair of detectives when a series of tragic events suspiciously ends the lives of fellow residents. A first novel by the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition With Scott Simon. 40,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

While helping police officers Esther and Lon investigate a suspicious death at her group home, nineteen-year-old Sal Miyake, who is mentally challenged, gains insights into herself and makes new friends.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A Bank Street Best Book of 2021Wonder meets Three Times Lucky in a story of empowerment as a young woman decides to help solve the mystery of multiple suspicious deaths in her group home.Sally Miyake can't read, but she learns lots of things. Like bricks are made of clay and Vitamin D comes from the sun. Sally is happy working in the kitchen at Sunnyside Plaza, the community center she lives in with other adults with developmental disabilities. For Sally and her friends, Sunnyside is the only home they've ever known.Everything changes the day a resident unexpectedly dies. After a series of tragic events, detectives Esther Rivas and Lon Bridges begin asking questions. Are the incidents accidents? Or is something more disturbing happening?The suspicious deaths spur the residents into taking the investigation into their own hands. But are people willing to listen?Sunnyside Plaza is a human story of empowerment, empathy, hope, and generosity that shines a light on this very special world.