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Ways to Make Sunshine

Written by Renee Watson

Illustrated by Mechal Roe

Key Stage 2 Family / Home Stories General Fiction

LoveReading View on Ways to Make Sunshine

A fabulously feelgood, authentic Middle Grade gem featuring a sunshine-spirited heroine and her loving family

August 2020 Book of the Month

From the author of exceptional YA novels like What Momma Left Me and Piecing Me Together comes this beautiful bighearted story for 7+ year-olds – a  true treasure about everyday family life, being yourself and making the best of things, with an unforgettable African American heroine at its luminous heart.


Keen cook Ryan and her family live in Portland, Oregon, and she’s not best pleased when they have to move to a smaller house as a result of her dad’s new job paying less than the one he lost a while back. But Ryan’s not the kind of girl to complain for long, or to let anything get her down. She’s one of life’s thinkers and doers, whose loving parents have infused her with a life-affirming sense of self-worth and pride in her heritage: “I remember what Mom always tells me, how she named me Ryan because she wanted me to feel powerful, to remember that I am a leader every time someone calls my name. Dad is always telling me our people come from royalty, that my ancestors lived in Africa and were kings and queens and inventors and hard workers. Mom tells me their strength is running through my veins.”


Told through manageable interlinked vignettes, this soulfully illustrated gem - the first in a series - sits in the tradition of Judy Blume’s young fiction and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, but it’s also refreshingly unique. The pitch-perfect evocation of Ryan’s grace and warmth, and her positive perspective will entertain and inspire young readers, while helping them understand the world and handle change.

Joanne Owen

Ways to Make Sunshine Synopsis

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.

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526613721
Publication date: 23rd July 2020
Author: Renee Watson
Illustrator: Mechal Roe
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 192 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 2
Topics: Family / Home Stories, General Fiction

About Renee Watson

RENEE WATSON is the acclaimed author of the teen novel, This Side of Home, and two picture books: Harlem's Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as an ABA New Voices Pick. She lives in New York City. Follow her on Instagram Photo credit: Shawnte Sims

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