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Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel, 1) Hardcover – Illustrated, April 28, 2020
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“Intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching. . . . Allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love. Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Adroitly captures the uncertainty of growing up amid change through the eyes of an irrepressible black girl.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A beautifully rendered series of vignettes à la Beezus and Ramona featuring a Black girl developing into her own personhood, this is a strong start to a new middle-grade series. Ryan Hart is a vivacious child […] with personality and spirit reminiscent of some of the most well-loved heroines in classic juvenile fiction tales.” ―Booklist, starred review
“A fresh beginning to a new chapter book series featuring a girl who can coax out sunshine from behind the darkest storm.” ―Shelf Awareness, starred review
“This brave new world we're living in sure could use more stories about these bright and imaginative girls who specialize in 'making a way out of no way.'” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Ryan Hart approaches challenges in her life with bravery, common sense, and humor. . . . a refreshing character.” ―Horn Book Magazine
“Middle graders who like realistic fiction will enjoy getting to know this earnest girl and her supportive family.” ―School Library Connection
“Plenty of charm . . . readers will look forward to Ryan's future adventures.” ―BCCB
“The theme of loving family and friends even through difficult times will resonate with readers. Cheerful black-and-white illustrations enhance the story and convey Ryan's effervescent personality.” ―School Library Journal online
“Timely and timeless.” ―Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winning author of BROWN GIRL DREAMING on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“Watson, with rhythm and style, somehow gets at . . . the life-changing power of voice and opportunity, all wrapped up in Jade.” ―Jason Reynolds, author of ALL AMERICAN BOYS on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“An important and deeply moving novel.” ―John Green, bestselling and award-winning author of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“Teeming with compassion and insight.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review, on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“A timely, nuanced, and unforgettable story.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“A nuanced meditation on race, privilege, and intersectionality.” ―SLJ, starred review, on PIECING ME TOGETHER
“Will resonate with many readers.” ―BCCB, starred review, on PIECING ME TOGETHER
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Children's Books; Illustrated edition (April 28, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Hardcover : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 154760056X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1547600564
- Reading age : 7 - 10 years
- Grade level : 4 - 6
- Item Weight : 10.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.82 x 0.78 x 8.57 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #8,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
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Ice cream before dinner is not something to celebrate. Indeed, it’s an obvious ploy on the part of Ryan’s parents, and she doesn’t trust it. Nor should she, because the next thing she knows she and her family have moved out of their beloved home into a much smaller rental. Add in an annoying older brother, talent show anxiety, church anxiety, and what exactly is going on with Grand Floral Parade getting cancelled on account of rain? Ryan tries to be a good kid, but sometimes it’s tricky to be yourself and someone who knows what the right thing to do is in any situation. Fortunately, the name Ryan means “king” and she aims to live up to it, one way or another.
So the big marketing takeaway with this book is that it’s sort of a Ramona reaction title. The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary are all set in Portland, Oregon (and, indeed, you can visit statues of them there if you’ve a notion). They are also pretty dang white. Renée Watson, who is black, grew up in Portland and decided to give us a different version of the town with her own lovingly flawed little female personage. Like Ramona, this book skews younger than some middle grade fare. You’d probably be more inclined to read it or hand it to kids between the ages of 6-10 rather than 9-12. Unlike Ramona, race is mentioned periodically. Lake Oswego is “too far and too white” (true). Ryan’s friends are mixed race or black. Ryan’s hair is this complicated staging ground that says a lot more than some kids are going to pick up on. Ryan is no Ramona, but that’s only because she has a personality entirely of her own. She’s mean to her brother and imaginative and horribly disappointed in her family’s fallen fortunes and often quite sweet. She’s a complicated personality. The kind of person you wish you saw more of in books for kids of this age.
I particularly liked that the book didn’t always swerve in the direction you expected it to go. For example, in the chapter “What Easter Means to Me” Ryan is going to have to get in front of a mic in church and give a speech that she has memorized. From the set-up, you figure you know what to expect. She’s messed up in the past but she’ll get up there scared, screw up her speech, and then give one even better that’s from the heart. Typical. Only, of course, that’s not the way it plays out. Instead, she drops the mic, forgets everything, never gets to justify her hard work (at least not in that moment), and gets out of there quick as a wink. Extra points for including the sentence, “I wonder why Jesus’s love for us has to be celebrated by torturing children to memorize poems.” The chapter “Water” is one of those moments in childhood where you go to a sleepover where you only know the host, and that’s a familiar set-up. What happens in the pool, however, has never been done in a book for kids before. And then there’s Ryan’s relationship with her brother, which is spiky, and angry, and malicious, and tender all at once. She’s the kind of kid who will prank her brother for being mean, then be sent to her room where she laughs herself to sleep. All this and not a brat. No mean feat.
We all have our gifts. Watson’s are multitude but the ones that interest me the most are geographical. I read a Renée Watson book and I know where I am. Granted, I have the privilege of having lived in two of the places that Watson knows well (Portland, Oregon and Harlem, New York), which means I assess with a gimlet eye the accuracy of these locations’ portrayals. Take the previously mentioned Some Places More Than Others. One section of that book involved the main character walking the streets of Harlem, assessing the landscape, tallying the landmarks, and making her way back to home base. Every single step of that journey felt accurate. New York City is the kind of place where out-of-towners fudge the details, but Watson keeps things realistic. Now I haven’t lived in Portland for an awful long time, so when it came to the neighborhoods portrayed in this book I can’t give you a yea or nay on their veracity. What I can tell instead is that the devil is in the details and the details of this book are devilishly clever. I’d forgotten that the place I always took cans to be recycled was the Safeway, and I got my food at the Fred Meyer grocery chain. Or that town’s obsession with all things berry. Or the wonderful wonderful outdoor art market on Saturdays. When I read a Ramona book I take it on blind faith that I’m in Portland. When I read this book, I’m there.
Now I started this whole review saying I don’t care for “spunk” and I stand by that statement. To be honest, though, spunk comes in different flavors. Renée Watson took it upon herself to include a jolt of it in her first chapter, but she also makes Ryan this realistic kid with a temper and a spine, so that when she spouts lines like “Maybe he doesn’t realize I can do and be anything” it goes down sweet, not sour. An author that can write a book for younger kids that mixed together those tricky elements of humor, raw reality, hope, and fear is someone you watch with interest. Above all, Watson’s a writer that respects the child audience. She’s keeps her readers awake and alert, making sure her heroine is interesting from page to page. Recently I’ve been looking at old reviews of books I read more than a decade ago and so many of them I’ve forgotten. But this book? I’m never gonna forget Ryan. She’s the friend you don’t always get along with. The one who’s never dull. The one that always has something going on in that head of hers, even when she’s dead silent. The one your kids are going to return to again and again. And so will you.
For ages 6-10.