Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ryan Hart, a next-generation Ramona Quimby, makes sunshine out of challenges in this warm-hearted series opener.

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson. Bloomsbury, 2020, 175 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 7-11, or 5-10 as a read-aloud

Ryan’s name means “king”–that’s her comeback when people observe it’s a boy’s name. It’s a leader’s name, and Ryans parents gave it to her because they want her to feel powerful when her name is called. Not in a bossy way, but in a self-assured way. But how do you feel powerful when your dad loses his job? and the landlord decides to sell the house you’re living in? and the house you’re moving to is smaller and doesn’t feel like home? Circumstances do get in the way of feeling powerful, but it’s those very circumstances that build emotional muscle.

Ryan Hart is marketed as a next-generation Ramona Quimby of a different color. Besides calling Portland home, like Beverly Cleary’s lovable creation, Ryan’s adventures follow a similar episodic pattern: challenges with the move, a mystery about previous occupants of the new house, a snarky white girl, a long-standing fear of public speaking. If, like Ramona, Ryan has further adventures in store, she’ll meet them with the same spunky trepidation, backed up by loving parents and a loyal, if annoying, older brother. Young readers in the 3rd-5th-grade range will enjoy spending time with her, and may even pick up some tips on “making sunshine.”

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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