Cover image for Sunnyside Plaza
Sunnyside Plaza
First edition.
Physical Description:
197 pages ; 21 cm
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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Wonder 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.

Author Notes

Scott Simon has won every major award in broadcasting for his personal essays, war reporting and commentary. He has reported from all fifty states, scores of foreign countries and eight wars. He hosts Weekend Edition with Scott Simon Saturday mornings on National Public Radio (which the Washington Post has called "the most literate, witty, moving and just plain interesting news show on any dial") and numerous public television and cable programs. He currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)

Kirkus Review

Sally Miyake is a 19-year-old woman who tells readers, "I can't read, but I see, I hear, and I notice things."She lives in Sunnyside Plaza, a group home for developmentally disabled adults of all ages and abilities. The staff members are dedicated to providing physical and emotional care as well as a bit of independence and responsibility. The residents have difficulties understanding concepts such as death or the passage of time. But they accept one another's strengths and weaknesses, valuing kindness above all. Sally proudly works in the kitchen under the direction of Conrad, doing small but necessary chores. When one of her family of friends dies from a stroke, detectives Bridges and Rivas are called to investigate. They soon come to admire Sally's directness and warm heart, and they become part of her life outside the investigation. Sally uses her observational skills to try to understand what has happened, actually cracking the case when she learns that someone who has been trusted is not trustworthy. Supporting characters are presented with love and appreciation for their best qualities. Sally's challenges are part and parcel of her shining humanity, and readers will come to love her. Naming conventions and descriptions indicate wide diversity, but Sally's implied Japanese heritage plays no part in the story.A tender insight into being different and wonderful. (author's note) (Mystery. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

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 age of the protagonist 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.--Donna Scanlon Copyright 2019 Booklist