Review of Ways to Grow Love

Ways to Grow Love [Ryan Hart]
by Renée Watson; illus. by Nina Mata
Intermediate    Bloomsbury    192 pp.    g
4/21    978-1-5476-0058-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0059-5    $11.89

Ryan Hart (Ways to Make Sunshine, rev. 3/20) is back, now a rising fifth grader and ready for summer adventures. Despite obstacles — her father works nights, her mother is pregnant and can’t do as much with her, older brother Ray is as annoying as ever — she still manages to have fun. She continues to bring her own style and wit to each day, whether tackling her library’s summer reading challenge or mediating a family argument (the solution involving an excessive amount of pickle juice). As she prepares for her first time at an overnight camp, Ryan, who is Black, is apprehensive about being reunited with Red, a white acquaintance who once made fun of her hair. Her grandmother encourages Ryan to “be a rose” — use her voice to protect her beauty, without being unkind; when she is tested, it will take her grandmother’s words and the story of the Good Samaritan for her to remember who she is. An expert at creating complex characters, Watson ensures that no one will be two-dimensional. While Ryan is an optimist, she also expresses concern over the family’s finances, the health of her unborn sister, and poverty in her community; big brother Ray has his times of generosity; and even Red gets a moment of revelation. With each chapter serving as its own short story, this second installment about Ryan is every bit as enjoyable as the first.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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