cover image Ways to Make Sunshine

Ways to Make Sunshine

Renée Watson, illus. by Nina Mata. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0056-4

In this series opener, a loose reimagining of Ramona Quimby’s exploits, Watson (Some Places More Than Others) adroitly captures the uncertainty of growing up amid change through the eyes of an irrepressible black girl. Fourth grader Ryan Hart’s name means “king,” and her parents encourage her to live up to it (“Dad is always telling me our people come from royalty... their strength is running through my veins”). Ryan tries her best, but it’s hard sometimes, as when classmates tease her about having “a boy’s name” and when her father loses his job, precipitating the family’s move to a smaller, “not new at all” home. Despite the changed circumstances, Ryan brings optimism to everything she does: racing bikes against her “bossy and nosy” big brother, facing her fear of public speaking, and serving as her mother’s sous chef. In vignette-style chapters, Watson warmly weaves together slice-of-life moments that capture youthful doubt alongside moments of loss and joy, showing a tight-knit family navigating difficulties with plenty of courage and plenty of love. Occasional illustrations by Mata (She’s Got This) emphasize the story’s joyful realism. Ages 7–10. Author’[em]s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Apr.) [/em]