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“Ways to Make Sunshine” by Renée Watson

--Staff Picks Kids

Ways to Make Sunshine

Renée Watson
Published: 2020
Age Range: 7-10
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships
Awards: Author Renée Watson is a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner

Joan read Ways to Make Sunshine and this is what she thought…

African American fourth grader Ryan Hart is self-assured in her life and her name, which means King even though she’s a girl. That is until constant changes (like her dad’s new job, moving to a new house, and all the demands of being in fourth grade) make her find new ways to accept that changes aren’t necessarily bad. This middle grade novel was very realistic. Fighting/competing with a sibling, or being nervous about getting up in front of a crowd are things everyone experiences, and Ryan works her way through them well.

My favorite element of this story was… ruining ice cream! The book begins and ends with an ice cream “celebration” of new things that may take some getting used to. I think it’s a common way adults try to put a positive spin on new things for kids who usually like things just the way they are. One element that I would change about the book was the surprise at the end. I didn’t think this was needed at first, although once I found out there will be more books in this series, it made more sense. The main theme of Ways to Make Sunshine is Ryan’s ever changing life, and how she begins to change to adapt to it. It also deals with a lot of family relationship issues that are probably familiar to many of us.

Who would you recommend this book to?

This book would probably be most enjoyed by fourth and fifth graders who can relate to the situations Ryan faces. Sweet and easy to follow – I really enjoyed this book. It is also the first book in a new series, so there will be more to come for Ryan.