By Author / Illustrator
Renee Watson, Mechal Roe
Friends and family
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Paperback / softback
Ryan Hart and her family live in Portland, Oregon, and her dad lost his job a while ago. He finally got a new one, but it pays less, and he'll have to work nights. And so they're selling the second car and moving to an (old) new house. The Harts are an everyfamily - a family with siblings who bicker, parents who don't always get it right, but a family that loves. A family working hard to make it in tough economic times, a family with traditions and culture, a family that tries new things. This is a black family growing up in middle class America.And Ryan is a girl who has much on her mind - school, family, friends, self-image - but who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. Packed with humour and heart alongside meaningful and thoughtful moments, Ryan Hart is the character everyone will want to be best friends with.
We all know the saying, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade', well, Ryan Hart is a girl who finds ways to make sunshine when life brings rainclouds.
With subtle echoes of Bill's New Frock, Ways to Make Sunshine will inspire and delight. Ryan's name means 'leader' and every day she makes it her mission to be who her parents named her to be. Don't be mistaken; Ryan isn't bossy, controlling or organising. A 'leader' in Ryan's eyes is someone who motivates, someone to look up to, a role model. Ryan aims to be the best in all that she says, does and thinks. She is kind, thoughtful, creative and empathetic. Children will be moved by her integrity and will be touched by her frailties and self-doubts.
Ryan and her family have recently moved home and, as with everything in her life, Ryan aims to see the best in the unwanted situation. She puts on her smile and sees the ray of sunshine through the clouds of disappointment. As a black girl (with a boy's name) Ryan has to 'fit in' and this book will resonate with some readers and will sharpen the awareness of others. Being true to herself and making her family proud is Ryan's driving force and, whenever she has moments of doubt or weakness, she reminds herself of the need to lead by example and she always chooses the right path.
This is a book about the ups and downs of family life, of friendships, of self-confidence. The realities of siblings and friends, of expectations and disappointments are among the themes of the book. We experience Ryan's distress when nerves get the better of her, we feel her hurt when other children are cruel, we feel her anger at sibling injustices, but most of all we feel the warmth of her irrepressible positivity. It is a book that just feels right. You can't help but admire and love Ryan- she's who we all should aim to be.
I would have this book on proud display in my classroom and would encourage all children to read, enjoy and to be inspired by it.
180 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Jo Clark, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 7+