MIDDLE GRADE REALISTIC FICTION: Ways to Make Sunshine & Ways to Grow Love by Renee Watson


Ryan Hart loves to spend time with her friends, loves to invent recipes, and has a lot on her mind—school, self-image, and family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means changes like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. Because Ryan is all about trying to see the best. Even when things aren’t all she would wish for—her brother is infuriating, her parents don’t understand, when her recipes don’t turn out right, and when the unexpected occurs—she can find a way forward, with wit and plenty of sunshine.


Renee Watson introduces readers to a delightful new character in Ways to Make Sunshine.  Ryan Hart tries to live up to the name her parents gave her (Ryan means 'king') to encourage her to be a leader.  But it's hard to be a leader when challenged by a brother or a classmate.  Life gets even harder when the family moves to a smaller house, one her parents can better afford.  Speeches at church, hair that doesn't always cooperate, and a friend's party that doesn't go at all according to plan are additional problems that Ryan must face.  But her cooking skills, loving parents, and best friends are all there to help her come through.  This delightful book introduces readers to a young black girl who deals with the kinds of things that a lot of kids face and will find it easy to relate to Ryan.  The illustrations are darling and beautifully complement the story.  Ryan's normally cheerful personality shines through clearly as she wrestles with the difficulties in her life.  But there are fun moments as well.  I appreciated the fact that Ryan has two parents who support and love her.  A wonderful read for middle grade readers who enjoy friendship and family-based realistic stories.


Ryan Hart and her family are back in another installment of stories about a Black girl finding her way and her voice as she grows through change and challenges. In this book, Ryan finds herself waiting on lots of things -- like for her new sister to be born healthy, for her new recipes to turn out right, for that summer camp trip to go better than she fears! And of course Ryan is facing these new challenges and new experiences in her classic style -- with a bright outlook and plenty of spirit! 


Ryan Hart is back in this sequel to Ways to Make Sunshine.  Now that Ryan has a baby sister on the way, she must adjust to all the changes.  Her fabulous plans for the summer don't work out the way she hoped.  But she still manages to attend church overnight camp, have fun with her friends, visit an amusement park, and work on her summer reading bingo chart.  Practicing her cooking and trying to get along with her brother also come into play.  Camp proves to be fun, until she and her friends make a poor choice and must suffer the consequences.  And Ryan takes the things she learns at camp and uses them to reach out to others.  This book, like the first one is full of positive, uplifting themes related to families, being kind, and adjusting to change.  A wonderfully fresh take on growing up, it's great to read a book with a diverse character who deals with issues other than horrible racism and bullying.  Those other books are needed, but so is this kind.  A delightful tale that young readers should find a pleasure to read.


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