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Ryan Hart #1

Ways to Make Sunshine

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Ryan Hart loves to spend time with her friends, loves to invent recipes, and has a lot on her mind—school, self-image, and family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means changes like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. Because Ryan is all about trying to see the best. Even when things aren’t all she would wish for—her brother is infuriating, her parents don’t understand, when her recipes don’t turn out right, and when the unexpected occurs—she can find a way forward, with wit and plenty of sunshine.

177 pages, Hardcover

First published April 28, 2020

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About the author

Renée Watson

38 books1,322 followers
Renée Watson is the author of the children’s picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (Random House, June 2010), which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction by The Independent Children's Booksellers Association.

Renée’s one woman show, Roses are Red, Women are Blue, debuted at New York City's Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists. Her poetry and articles have been published in Rethinking Schools, Theatre of the Mind and With Hearts Ablaze.

When Renée is not writing and performing, she is teaching. Renée has worked in public schools and community organizations as an artist in residence for several years, teaching poetry, fiction, and theater in Oregon, Louisiana, and New York City. She also facilitates professional development workshops for teachers and artists.

One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma. She has facilitated poetry and theatre workshops with young girls coping with sexual and physical abuse, children who have witnessed violence, children coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and children who relocated to New York City after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Renée graduated from The New School, where she studied Creative Writing and earned a certificate in Drama Therapy.

Renée currently lives in New York City.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 729 reviews
Profile Image for elena ❀.
257 reviews2,874 followers
April 3, 2021
quick, cute, lighthearted, and realistic, ways to make sunshine is a step forward for little black girls with dreams of changing the world someday.

so many of the scenes between ryan and her brother, ray, reminded me of my brother when i was younger. being the smaller sister of 2 years, i would always follow him around, want to be where he was at, hang out with him and his friends, beat him at games and races, and basically annoy him. the siblings relationship made me nostalgic and think of our childhood. having a sibling is annoying but it's also so beautiful.

the portrayal of family love was also so delightful, and the way ryan wanted to do her best to bring sunshine to her new house was fun to read about. she was so loving, caring, spirited, and driven. her ability to continue striving forward without looking back can be so inspiring for many people, but especially black little girls like her.

although the book is a fun and light read, the book doesn't shy away from what little black girls like ryan deal with. she was made fun of her hair when it got wet and how big it got, showing it as it is, a natural dark and curly afro. she wanted to prove herself to her brother and other girls that she was capable of doing so much more. she wanted to do the best for herself and her family. it was beautiful to read about her grandma telling her how beautiful she is and how beautiful her dark hair is, but it was saddening to read about ryan disagreeing and preferring to have it straightened, taking care of it and making sure it didn't get wet.

ryan is such an inspiration. the little girl in me wishes she had the ambition, strength, courage, and determination ryan had. she dreams and wants to make those dreams reality, and it was so fun seeing how her character developed little by little as the little girl she is. she had talent and passion for cooking, and imagining what type of cook or chef she would be in the future was easy to do so.

i hope this book can be a step forward for many girls like ryan - girls who struggle looking at their hair and who want to adapt to white and european beauty standards; girls who want to show the world that they are capable of conquering their dreams; girls who will do anything it takes to bring sunshine to their life and let people know that their ancestors, kings and queen that they were, did not go through constant battles for them to merely give up.
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,750 followers
April 2, 2020
I am the Lou Grant of children’s literary reviewers. I hate spunk. That’s kind of a blanket statement for what often turns out to be a fairly nuanced issue, so I’ll scale it back a bit. I hate unearned spunk. Children’s books are just rife with the stuff, overflowing with cheery aphorisms and chipper jolts of self-esteem. Spunk, as far as I can tell, is nine times out of ten just a more upbeat form of didacticism, often considered preferable to boring browbeating fare. But there are exceptions to every rule and for every nine intolerable doyennes of drivel there’s a tenth book where the character is more than a one-note cheerleader. Renée Watson is one of those authors I read and I read and I read, and then wait on. I like her books. I enjoyed Some Places More Than Others. Her picture book Harlem’s Little Blackbird remains memorable to this day. But the book of hers that I think I can unequivocally say I like the most now is Ways to Make Sunshine. With a title like that, one fears that the book will be doomed to find itself lumped in with innocuously cheery, forgettable fare. We get peppy little novels for younger readers all the time. They run together in your mind like rivulets down a windowpane. Thank goodness for this book then. Sharp and smart. Kind and caustic. Occasionally acidic, but in a nice way, it’s the kind of book that wakes up dreamy readers and forces the darned kids to think a little. Precisely what we would have all been waiting for, had we but known to want it.

Ice cream before dinner is not something to celebrate. Indeed, it’s an obvious ploy on the part of Ryan’s parents, and she doesn’t trust it. Nor should she, because the next thing she knows she and her family have moved out of their beloved home into a much smaller rental. Add in an annoying older brother, talent show anxiety, church anxiety, and what exactly is going on with Grand Floral Parade getting cancelled on account of rain? Ryan tries to be a good kid, but sometimes it’s tricky to be yourself and someone who knows what the right thing to do is in any situation. Fortunately, the name Ryan means “king” and she aims to live up to it, one way or another.

So the big marketing takeaway with this book is that it’s sort of a Ramona reaction title. The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary are all set in Portland, Oregon (and, indeed, you can visit statues of them there if you’ve a notion). They are also pretty dang white. Renée Watson, who is black, grew up in Portland and decided to give us a different version of the town with her own lovingly flawed little female personage. Like Ramona, this book skews younger than some middle grade fare. You’d probably be more inclined to read it or hand it to kids between the ages of 6-10 rather than 9-12. Unlike Ramona, race is mentioned periodically. Lake Oswego is “too far and too white” (true). Ryan’s friends are mixed race or black. Ryan’s hair is this complicated staging ground that says a lot more than some kids are going to pick up on. Ryan is no Ramona, but that’s only because she has a personality entirely of her own. She’s mean to her brother and imaginative and horribly disappointed in her family’s fallen fortunes and often quite sweet. She’s a complicated personality. The kind of person you wish you saw more of in books for kids of this age.

I particularly liked that the book didn’t always swerve in the direction you expected it to go. For example, in the chapter “What Easter Means to Me” Ryan is going to have to get in front of a mic in church and give a speech that she has memorized. From the set-up, you figure you know what to expect. She’s messed up in the past but she’ll get up there scared, screw up her speech, and then give one even better that’s from the heart. Typical. Only, of course, that’s not the way it plays out. Instead, she drops the mic, forgets everything, never gets to justify her hard work (at least not in that moment), and gets out of there quick as a wink. Extra points for including the sentence, “I wonder why Jesus’s love for us has to be celebrated by torturing children to memorize poems.” The chapter “Water” is one of those moments in childhood where you go to a sleepover where you only know the host, and that’s a familiar set-up. What happens in the pool, however, has never been done in a book for kids before. And then there’s Ryan’s relationship with her brother, which is spiky, and angry, and malicious, and tender all at once. She’s the kind of kid who will prank her brother for being mean, then be sent to her room where she laughs herself to sleep. All this and not a brat. No mean feat.

We all have our gifts. Watson’s are multitude but the ones that interest me the most are geographical. I read a Renée Watson book and I know where I am. Granted, I have the privilege of having lived in two of the places that Watson knows well (Portland, Oregon and Harlem, New York), which means I assess with a gimlet eye the accuracy of these locations’ portrayals. Take the previously mentioned Some Places More Than Others. One section of that book involved the main character walking the streets of Harlem, assessing the landscape, tallying the landmarks, and making her way back to home base. Every single step of that journey felt accurate. New York City is the kind of place where out-of-towners fudge the details, but Watson keeps things realistic. Now I haven’t lived in Portland for an awful long time, so when it came to the neighborhoods portrayed in this book I can’t give you a yea or nay on their veracity. What I can tell instead is that the devil is in the details and the details of this book are devilishly clever. I’d forgotten that the place I always took cans to be recycled was the Safeway, and I got my food at the Fred Meyer grocery chain. Or that town’s obsession with all things berry. Or the wonderful wonderful outdoor art market on Saturdays. When I read a Ramona book I take it on blind faith that I’m in Portland. When I read this book, I’m there.

Now I started this whole review saying I don’t care for “spunk” and I stand by that statement. To be honest, though, spunk comes in different flavors. Renée Watson took it upon herself to include a jolt of it in her first chapter, but she also makes Ryan this realistic kid with a temper and a spine, so that when she spouts lines like “Maybe he doesn’t realize I can do and be anything” it goes down sweet, not sour. An author that can write a book for younger kids that mixed together those tricky elements of humor, raw reality, hope, and fear is someone you watch with interest. Above all, Watson’s a writer that respects the child audience. She’s keeps her readers awake and alert, making sure her heroine is interesting from page to page. Recently I’ve been looking at old reviews of books I read more than a decade ago and so many of them I’ve forgotten. But this book? I’m never gonna forget Ryan. She’s the friend you don’t always get along with. The one who’s never dull. The one that always has something going on in that head of hers, even when she’s dead silent. The one your kids are going to return to again and again. And so will you.

For ages 6-10.
Profile Image for Toni.
515 reviews
December 13, 2020
Such a lovely book with a wonderful protagonist! Ryan Hart is a great friend, loyal and supportive. Her father's post-office got closed and he lost his job. Now he works nights and is often tired. There is also less money, no second car, and the whole family moves into a different, smaller house. It isn't easy to cope with these changes. Luckily, Ryan has her family to remind her that her biggest talent isn't cooking, although she is pretty good at inventing new dishes, her biggest talent is being nice to people. Her grandmother keeps telling her that Ryan can wear her hair any way she wants, it's her choice, but it isn't why she is beautiful. Ryan is beautiful because she treats people kindly. Sometimes it comes easy, like noticing that a talented girl from her class is actually very nervous and insecure, and needs a bit of encouragement. Sometimes it takes more effort when Ryan realises she is being selfish or inconsiderate.
The questions Ryan is grappling with are very relatable: coping with changes, especially when they are not exactly for better, trying hard and still not being able to do something, friendships and fitting in, an irritating older brother. Ryan shows remarkable optimism and great ability to turn negative into positive and kind.
Highly recommended.
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,287 followers
August 11, 2022
This is the story of a girl called Ryan (who's been teased for her name even by her teachers and everyone alike). This is the story of Ryan who's the one everyone expects to understand and do things what girls are supposed to do.

She has lots to say and have a mind of her own amidst the ones who doesn't care to listen and want to listen maybe because she's just a little girl.

I love the writing. It's hard-hitting at times. It's just perfect for beginners and to be read out loud.

The story also revolves around moving and adjusting to new environment.

The friendship and family dynamics stand out. I love how the characters are developed and represented.

I like the illustrations but I wish it was colourful and more distinct.

All that food talk and grandma love. I need more! The parts of self acceptance are the best. How an adult can make a huge difference in this is so well portrayed. And the brother! He's annoying but adorable.

I love how the story got realistic and relatable talking about being someone different, outspoken but also having stage fright and what it means to have a supportive family and friends; also what home really means. The title makes lots of sense towards the end.

Loved the book!
March 8, 2020

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I don't normally read middle grade novels but I've fallen in love with Renee Watson's writing and want to support her in whatever she writes. WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE is about a young girl named Ryan. The blurb on the back says it's like if you were reading a book about Ramona Quimby, only black-- but Ramona was always annoying and kind of bratty, in my opinion. Ryan is such a strong, sweet girl who loves her family and is constantly pushing herself to achieve more and be her very best.

There isn't really a "plot" in this book but it discusses a lot of really complex topics in a way that young kids will be able to understand. Ryan and her parents and brother have to move to a cheaper house in a less-great part of town because their landlord wants to sell the house (probably because of gentrification). Ryan has to deal with a bully who's a bit of a racist. Ryan also learns about false first impressions, that it's not good to get revenge on your siblings, and how to find the silver lining in bad situations.

Honestly, this book is so cute and the heroine is so likable, I can't see this not appealing to young kids. One of the things I love about Watson's writing is that whether she's writing for kids or teens, she never talks down to her audiences and her voice is so authentic. I feel like she really gets how kids think and want to see themselves, and that really breathes life into her books. Normally I can't stand the condescending, hand-holding tone that many middle grade books have, but I know I'll never experience that with one of Renee Watson's.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3.5 to 4 stars
Profile Image for nat.
71 reviews274 followers
July 9, 2021
Ways to Make Sunshine, in short, is such a heartwarming middle grade story full of Black joy. It follows nine-year-old Ryan Hart in her day to day life, and while this book doesn't necessarily have an actual 'plot'—it's very slice-of-life—I enjoyed every bit of it! It made me smile so much and reading it was such a breeze.

Grandma turns me around to face her. "Baby girl, you are beautiful. No matter if your hair is straight or not. How you wear your hair is your choice and no matter what you choose, it's not going to determine if you're beautiful or not."

Between every few pages there's also art of Ryan depicted in various scenes of this book, and every single one of the drawings was so pretty; to be honest, if you pick up this book just for the sake of looking at the art, I wouldn't blame you. I don't see many people talking about this book (none of the people I've added here have read it), which is so unfortunate because it's so worth your time! If you're a fan of sweet middle grade books and Black girl leads, this is definitely a book for you.

I received an e-ARC of this book from Bloomsbury via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 5 books794 followers
May 21, 2020
This was really cute and really took me back to being little. I loved seeing a Black little girl in this position.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,908 reviews34 followers
September 11, 2022
9/3/22 Sweet little story about a loving family, school, and springtime in Portland, Oregon.
1/22/22 Set in Portland, Oregon, Ryan experiences changes at home and at school. Her family moves to a new home, Dad has a new job , and one of two best friends moved away to a different Portland neighborhood that requires her to go to a different school. Unlike most school stories, this one starts sometime during the last half of the school year; much of the story is about springtime traditions; Easter, Portland's Rose Festival, a school talent show and the last day of school.
Give this one to anyone who likes school stories, friendship stories or stories about close-knit families.
Profile Image for Nicole.
521 reviews49 followers
March 12, 2021
(english review only)

I listened to the audiobook and it was such a joy!!!

I love this book, I love the story, and the characters.
The family feels in this wonderful story was my everything. Good god, the whole book was just what I needed, so full of joy and love, and greateness.

I just found out there is going to be a second book in this, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I NEED MORE OF THIS FAMILY!!!!!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,348 reviews528 followers
April 20, 2021
This book brought some sunshine into my day. Ryan was given a name to live up to. It means 'king' and her parents often remind her that they had a vision for her to be a leader someday. Her older brother Ray was given his name to remind him to be a protector. This series has a classic feel to it. I love the glimpses we have into the Hart family. They are struggling to pay the rent at their current house so they move to a more manageable place. Ryan's dad is starting a new job working nights. Her mom lets her help cook. Ryan and big brother Ray bicker like normal siblings. The family goes to church together for Easter. There is a talent show at school. So many seemingly mundane events are woven together to give the reader a sunny experience -- like when Ryan and friends decorate her room with sunshine and clouds and borrow Ray's scooter to re-enact the Rose Festival Parade that they missed due to inclement weather. Looking forward to seeing more of Ryan's heart in the next book in the series -- 'Ways to Grow Love.'
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews146 followers
January 24, 2023
If Renée Watson's YA novels are a bit too serious for you, try her series about Ryan Hart, which began in 2020 with Ways to Make Sunshine. A fourth-grader at Vernon Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, Ryan has a nice life. She and her older brother Ray get along well most of the time. Their parents work hard but are happy, though Dad recently lost his job at the post office, so finances are tighter than they once were. That's the subject at hand when Ryan and Ray arrive home from school one afternoon to find their parents dishing up ice cream for the four of them. Dessert before supper is a sure sign something is wrong, but Ryan still feels stunned when Mom and Dad announce the family will be moving to a smaller house and selling their second car. Dad's new job pays less than his post office gig, but things will be fine as long as the Harts stick to a modest budget for now. It won't be forever.

Ryan's life over the next year unfolds in a parade of episodes that reveal her heart and that of her family and friends. The Harts take a car ride together beside the Columbia River, their last before Dad sells the Toyota. They aren't moving far from their old house; in fact, now they're closer to the school, so Ryan and Ray will walk there each morning with Ryan's friend KiKi. The new house is dingy and worn, a definite downgrade, but Ryan tries to project a positive attitude. She finds an old cookie tin in her bedroom closet containing a few items belonging to an anonymous someone, and Ryan wonders whose they might be. Were they left here intentionally for her to find? Has the owner passed away, and is now haunting the house as a ghost? Ray seems to think it's possible. Ryan has loved baking and creating her own recipes since before she was old enough to operate a stove, and settling into the new kitchen helps the house feel like home. Whether she's whipping up a sumptuous carrot cake or a "Blackberry-Lime Extravaganza" smoothie, Ryan's culinary skill is one way to make sunshine when she's tempted to feel gloomy.

Spring is a welcome change after the long winter. For the Harts, Easter means family, candy, and church activities, but Ryan is nervous to stand up in church and give her short memorized speech. What if she botches it like every year before? Well, she'll have the reassurance of her family to fall back on like a net woven from soft silk, and hours of fun with extended family after church. Who can stay upset when your new house is full of laughter, excitement, fine food, and an Easter egg hunt with a prize for the winner? Ryan loves this holiday for more reasons than she can name. Shortly after Easter, Ryan attends a party at her longtime friend Amanda's house. They don't see each other often these days, so Ryan is excited, but Mrs. Hart makes Ryan promise not to swim in the pool. Ryan's grandmother went to a lot of trouble heating and combing the kinks out of her hair for Easter, and her mother wants it to stay that way a little longer. Of course, surrounded by kids at the party, including a girl named Red who isn't shy about claiming to be Amanda's new best friend, Ryan yields to temptation. What will her mother think when Ryan comes home with her hair poofy and unmanageable again? The moment offers to teach something about the human impulse to constantly strive for the approval of others.

Every year, Vernon Elementary puts on its Fourth-Grade Talent Showcase. Ryan yearns to perform for an adoring crowd, but her talent is cooking. How can she do that onstage? She wishes she were a gifted vocalist like Hannah Wilkerson, whose powerful notes flow free and who doesn't seem self-conscious at all. KiKi thinks Hannah is conceited, but Ryan is reluctant to agree. On some weekends, Amanda accompanies Ryan to the Saturday Market, where Mrs. Hart has a booth selling the clothing items she knits. This may turn out to be where Ryan finds an answer to the mystery of the cookie tin in her bedroom closet. We take a brief detour from the main story to Alberta Park, where one day Ryan and KiKi accompany Ray and his friends Logan and Aiden on their bikes. Ryan isn't a bad athlete; she's capable of winning a bike race against older kids, but she'd better watch out for that beehive in a bush! A few days later when Ray goes to the park but won't let Ryan come, she gets revenge by putting hot sauce in his chicken wings. Her parents are mad, but Ryan finds it hilarious, and Ray later admits it was a clever prank. By now the new house feels like home, but Ryan is still unsure what to do for the Fourth-Grade Talent Showcase. It's her chance to make up for the faux pas in her Easter speech at church, to prove she can be poised and articulate as any kid her age. Just as all seems to be going Ryan's way, however, her parents have another major announcement. Will she figure out how to make the most of this change in plans, as she did when the Harts moved to a smaller house?

The episodic nature of Ways to Make Sunshine reminds me of books by E.B. White, Eleanor Estes, and George Selden, as well as Jason Reynolds's Look Both Ways, but I see why the jacket copy describes Ryan Hart as Renée Watson's "own version of Ramona Quimby". I don't love this book like Ramona the Pest or Ramona Quimby, Age 8, but Ways to Make Sunshine is every bit as good as some entries in the Ramona series. I appreciate the importance that Ryan's parents attached to her name and to Ray's: his means "protector" and hers means "king", suggesting she should endeavor to be a good leader and role model. "Be who we named you to be," their dad tells them when they stray from the ideal. For Ryan that means choosing optimism, remembering it isn't the size of their house or ability to buy name food brands that makes the Harts a family. Love, respect, and support will carry them through this financial squeeze and worse. I rate Ways to Make Sunshine two and a half stars, and if you need a literary boost for your mood, this isn't a bad place to look. I would happily read about Ryan again.
Profile Image for RoRo.
279 reviews65 followers
January 1, 2022
4 stars

This is book 1/10 for my Battle of the Books Assitant Coaching.
This book was a very good book. I liked it. I am not probably going to write a full review for any of the BotB books because I already have so many notes for them. So yea, overall, this was a good book, but since it was a middle grade I just guess I wasn't connecting with the characters at all.
Hope y'all have a nice day!
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
581 reviews301 followers
March 21, 2021
Renee Watson’s Ways to Make Sunshine is an absolutely delightful early middle-grade book with a memorable protagonist. I would recommend this book to any who enjoy strong female leads, books about female friendships, and heartwarming sibling dynamics. This book also excellently handles the issue of a family dealing with financial difficulties, and finally, it reminds Black girls that they are not their hair. Highly recommend, and can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Read my full review on my blog.
Profile Image for Susan.
221 reviews8 followers
July 6, 2020
Yes! Just YES to everything about this first in series title! In under 175 pages, Renee Watson gives young readers a main character that they will want to get to know better. Ryan is the kind of kid you want to be friends with and the struggles she faces are just normal, every day kind of struggles that kids will relate too. The story line has depth and heart, which we could use more of for the younger readers! This would make a fantastic read aloud and/or book club selection as well! Definitely get this one ordered, read, and ready to book talk, especially with 3rd grade and 4th grade readers.
Profile Image for Liana Grace.
235 reviews
May 26, 2021
Ryan's optimism is a breath of fresh air or more appropriately, the ray of sunshine we all need right now. I love this 4th grade king!
Profile Image for Cassie Thomas.
454 reviews16 followers
February 17, 2020
The whole time I was reading I kept thinking this was written to be the next great series that kids can relate to, and then I read that it’s Renee’s version of Ramona Quimby series and I couldn’t be more excited. It ended where I have so many questions, but I know that Ryan’a stories are just beginning.

There were so many amazing themes intertwined, the most of all being to love who you were born to be.

My favorite quote from the ARC: “How you wear your hair is your choice and no matter what you choose, it’s not going to determine if you’re beautiful or not. The only thing that will determine that is how you treat others.”

Ryan is learning how to live up to her name that means “leader” and along the way she encounters fear, worry, jealousy, and many emotions she can’t quite play out. She hears her dads voice telling her to be a leader and she learns to think before she acts - great lessons to share and discuss in the classroom.

As a teacher, I also marked several spots for notice and note signposts!

Can’t wait for more of the Hart family!
Profile Image for Katrina Tangen.
Author 2 books22 followers
July 22, 2020
I don’t know why anyone is comparing this to Ramona—she’s not a trouble-maker and it’s not at all funny. I was really confused about her age for awhile. Between the Ramona comparison and the pictures (which are super cute!), I thought she was in like 2nd grade, not 4th. Which made it even more jarring that the voice does not sound like a kid at all—too formal and the descriptions are too writerly.
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews81 followers
May 25, 2020
This sweet little early chapter book was such a fun addition to my reading week. Ryan Hart is the youngest in her family. That’s right, HER family. She was named Ryan because she is to become a great leader. And her parents don’t shy away from reminding her of this fact whenever appropriate. At the opening of this story, Ryan’s family is facing some major life changes after her father lost his job with the USPS (how appropriate, considering our current situation), so they will be moving to a new (old) house across town. I wouldn’t say there was a major plot line with a big rise and fall, but the charming smaller plots were enough for a young child to easily follow and enjoy. There’s a teeny big of mystery mixed into this story along with a repeated attempt to overcome stage fright. And Ryan loves trying new recipes, so there’s a lot of trial and error baking in her household. We just so happen to learn that her favorite ice cream is Tillamook Marionberry Pie. And I may never forgive you, Renée Watson, for introducing me to this flavor. YUMMO! I was practically giddy over the little illustrations scattered throughout the chapters. Soooo precious… and worth stopping to appreciate all the lovely little details. Make sure this title makes it into your children’s libraries!

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!!
Profile Image for Heather Moore.
550 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2021
I’ve heard such rave reviews about this book that I planned to read it aloud to my 13 year old, but a friend who recently read it talked me out of it. While glad she did, I now realize that this is a book where expectations need to be managed. This is aimed at 2nd-5th graders with no major plot-defining moment. It’s about a girl navigating her everyday life of going to school, moving to a smaller house, and fighting (good grief, too much bickering) with her brother. I really appreciated some of the themes running through the book (the children living up to the meanings of their names, seeing beauty from the inside, etc), but much of it was bogged down in self-serving attitudes and sibling rivalry without enough happy connection to bring it around before the next argument started the cycle over again. Bonus points for the adorable illustrations sprinkled throughout the book though.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,101 reviews130 followers
May 14, 2020
This is seriously the literary equivalent of sunshine. I had the best time reading it and I'm sure I had a smile on my face 99% of the time. (There were also times I felt sad, because it's a realistic book. But it was mostly the most positive reading experience possible.)

This book is also laugh-out-loud funny. There's a part where Ryan, her brother and their friends are in a park and something goes very wrong and I laughed so hard that I'm pretty sure I could be heard in other apartments. 

Renee Watson writes these amazing and thoughtful books. I don't think she's written anything that I haven't loved and immediately wanted to give to other people to read. She's an actual treasure.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Beth Anne.
1,193 reviews93 followers
June 4, 2021
Re-read aloud with mostly the younger kids, though the older ones listened in from time to time. Still a really great story - it feels real and relatable, with a realistic and loving family. Looking forward to reading book 2 in the series next!

Read aloud to all my kids, and we just loved this book! This is a beautiful, real life story, featuring a Black girl and her family. They deal with real life together - problems with friends, moving, new jobs, being frugal, weather cancelling plans, sibling issues, race issues, and most of all, what it means to focus on yourself and what you can control. I really hope this ends up being a series, but if not it has helped me to find a new author and I need to read more of her works!
Profile Image for Richelle Robinson.
1,181 reviews35 followers
April 24, 2020
*Thank you to Bloomsbury Children's Books for my free review copy*

After reading and loving Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson, I am making it my business to read more of her books. I watched the television show Ramona when I was younger so this is a nice and refreshing spin on the character.

This book doesn't have a traditional plot but the general consensus is how to be a positive person. Taking risks. Believing in yourself. How to overcome adversity. It also has some nice life lessons along the way.

This book was well written and I really liked the illustrations as well. This book/series is sure to be a hit with it's target audience
Profile Image for Katie Proctor.
Author 8 books82 followers
March 9, 2021
This is a really cute book. Ryan is such an authentic character, very true to her age. I love that the things she deals with are so ordinary and yet we get a glimpse of her feelings throughout.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,059 reviews76 followers
November 5, 2020
Delightful. My daughters loved Ryan and her family.
Profile Image for Macy Davis.
1,099 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2021
This was really cute and I totally understand the comparison of this to the Ramona books!
Profile Image for Kerry (lines i underline).
505 reviews161 followers
January 8, 2021
4.5 ⭐️

A dear little book that felt like sneaking a glimpse into a real family - their challenges, their connection, their sweet rituals, and their love. Ryan is a character I think lots of children will relate to in different ways. I’ll definitely want to read more in this series. The family dynamic may appeal to fans of The Vanderbeekers.
Profile Image for Kristina.
851 reviews195 followers
June 12, 2020
Сладка и очарователна детска книжка от една от любимите ми авторки <3
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,824 reviews283 followers
March 25, 2020
"If we can't go to the parade,
let's have one here."

I saw this quote from Ways to Make Sunshine today, and I had to read this book.

Ryan Hart is the perfect character in the perfect story for these unsettling times. Ryan's family is moving to a smaller house. Ryan's dad, who had lost his job, has just accepted a new job, but the new job is for less money. Ryan and her brother, Ray, have frequent, petty squabbles. Sometimes Ryan and her friends have difficulties. Should Ryan obey her mother and keep her new, fancy hairdo dry or should she take on a rival for her friend's affections and get her hair wet?

These are the sort of issues Ryan and her family face in this little children's book, the sort of ordinary troubles families face everywhere every day. Ryan's parents are the wonderfully reassuring parents we all wish we had. They continually remind their children how much they love them, and they encourage their children to push themselves to be better than they are, and they never crush them with their discipline or their expectations.

And Ryan, surrounded by that ring of love from her parents and supportive friends, does become better than she was, finding a way to make sunshine in the rain, rising up to become a leader.

It's delightfully refreshing to spend time with these characters today.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 729 reviews

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