Summary: Ways to Make Sunshine
In Ways to Make Sunshine, Ryan Hart and her family are moving to a new (old) house because her dad lost his post office job and his new job doesn’t pay as much. Ryan is unhappy about the change for many reasons. She liked their old house, and even though she has her own room in this new house, this house is a smaller bungalow, which means there will be no stairs to play on. She also fears that it will be too small to entertain guests, because Ryan loves to create new recipes — and cook them!
Still, there are small joys. She doesn’t have to change schools and is still close enough to one of her best friends. With the new house, and selling one of their cars, her parents can better deal with their financial struggles. Throughout this slice-of-life book, Ryan learns how to believe in herself, enjoy public speaking, be a bigger person, and love who she is.
Ryan. That’s really it. Ryan is a captivating character. I enjoyed reading her interaction with her brother, Ray, and her friends Amanda and Kiki. Although this is a “slice-of-life” early middle-grade book, Ryan’s exploits are interesting. She learns to love her natural hair and has a hilarious but teachable pool moment with her hair, cooks lots of yummy food, and learns to tackle her fear of public speaking.
I love Renee Watson’s writing; honestly, I would read her grocery lists. She brings the same simplicity and depth to the table in this book. If you read my reviews, you’ll know I enjoy middle-grade books that deal with financial strain, because it is a part of so many kids’ childhoods. In this book, Ryan sees her parents’ struggles, yet, it’s far from sad and gloomy. On the contrary, Ryan is funny and full of sunshine. Finally, the illustrations in this book are gorgeous! I wish there were more.
At 192 pages (and few illustrations), this book is perfect for those who’ve outgrown your typical chapter book but aren’t quite ready for the full weight of your typical middle-grade book.
Overall: Ways to Make Sunshine
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.
Buy This Book
More Early Middle-Grade Books & Chapter Books
- Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee
- Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj
Other Books by Renee Watson
Other Books About Families Dealing With Financial Strain
- Efren Divided by Ernest Cisneros
- Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torress
- The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres
Have you read this book or any other book by Renee Watson? She’s a favorite of mine. I love reading early middle-grade books! Which ones are your favorites? If you like Renee Watson, you may enjoy this list of Black middle-grade books.
This sounds like a really sweet book. I think that there is a need for more in-between chapter and MG books. I also think they are hard to do well. I will definitely check this out. Thanks for the review.
Afoma Umesi says
It is sooo sweet! I can’t wait to be reunited with Ryan and her family again soon.