Review of Ways to Make Sunshine

Ways to Make Sunshine
by Renée Watson; illus. by Nina Mata
Intermediate    Bloomsbury    178 pp.    g
4/20    978-1-5476-0056-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0057-1    $11.89

African American fourth grader Ryan Hart approaches challenges in her life with bravery, common sense, and humor. When the house her family rents is sold and her father’s lower-paying new job results in a move to an older, smaller house, Ryan takes joy in finding a tin of antique hairpins in her new room (even though there’s a pretty good chance they’re haunted, if older brother Ray is to be believed). When rain keeps the Harts from attending Portland’s Grand Floral Parade, Ryan leads the way in creating another parade — and making sunshine — in her bedroom. And when faced with public speaking, Ryan reminds herself, “I can do this. I just have to try,” and succeeds just when she’s needed to fill in for a talent show’s emcee. Writing for a younger audience than she has before, Watson (Piecing Me Together, rev. 7/17; Some Places More Than Others, rev. 9/19) approaches mature themes, including family finances and self-image, in an age-appropriate way and has created a refreshing character in self-assured Ryan, supported by equally complex portrayals of friends and family.

From the March/April 2020 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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