Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel, book 1) by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel) - Kindle edition by ...

Summary:  Ryan Hart is a fourth grader–and yes, she’s a girl, “a girl with a name that a lot of boys have.”  Her name means “king”, and her parents often remind her to live up to that name by being a leader, which can be tough at times.  Her dad recently lost his job at the post office, and has taken another job working the midnight shift, which also pays less.  At the beginning of the book, when Ryan’s parents offer her and her older brother Ray ice cream before dinner, Ryan knows there must be bad news coming.  It turns out the family is moving.  The new house is much smaller, which takes some getting used to, especially when one of Ryan’s best friends moves to a much bigger, fancier house.  As spring turns into summer, Ryan deals with other ups and downs: stage fright about reciting a speech in church on Easter, figuring out what to do with her hair, and trying to decide what to do in the fourth grade talent show.  The end of school brings the biggest surprise of all, but Ryan takes it (pretty much) in stride, and paves the way for book 2.  192 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This book is being compared to Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books: it takes place in Portland, Oregon, features a spunky girl protagonist, and offers slice-of-life stories instead of one major plot.  Ryan is funny, honest, and endearing; her insights into family, friendship, and race ring true for a ten-year-old.  This book would be just right for a third- or fourth-grade book club; the illustrations and larger font make it feel manageable, but there’s also plenty for kids to relate to and want to discuss.

Cons:  Some kids might be turned off by the slightly sappy title.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

5 thoughts on “Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel, book 1) by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata

  1. Hi Janet

    I’m writing to you from Johannesburg, South Africa.

    I’ve been a children’s librarian for over 40 years, and am as keen as ever to excite kids about books! I wanted to tell you how helpful your blog is. I follow many sites on the different platforms to keep abreast with children’s’ books – we’re rather far from everything and I I don’t want to miss anything good. Yours is one of the most helpful and inspiring. I have been able to add many titles to my shopping list from your reading. I’m especially grateful for stories that feature children of colour, as you can imagine! I especially love titles like this one, where the protagonist is just an ordinary kid; that’s what really spikes interest!

    I have no idea how you get through so many titles – I think I’m a pretty fast reader and I read almost everything I put on the shelves, but a book a day – whew!!

    Thanks again and go well – hamba kahle in Zulu!


    Julia Heaney



    De La Salle Holy Cross College Junior School

    Corner 13th Street and Braemar Avenue Victory Park 2195 011 782 5217 / 011 782 2178 / 011 888 5217 (tel) 011 782 8489 (fax) http://www.delasalleholycrosscollege.co.

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  2. Thank you, Julia, this comment really made my day! I’m always so happy to hear that this blog is useful to librarians and other educators. Hope you enjoy the book!


  3. I really loved Beverly Cleary’s books when I was a kid, so something new coming out that has a somewhat similar tone sounds good to me. There was always something really comforting about Cleary’s books, there were no really heavy issues but they didn’t talk down to kids either.


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