I don't normally read middle grade novels but I've fallen in love with Renee Watson's writing and want to support her in whatever she writes. WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE is about a young girl named Ryan. The blurb on the back says it's like if you were reading a book about Ramona Quimby, only black-- but Ramona was always annoying and kind of bratty, in my opinion. Ryan is such a strong, sweet girl who loves her family and is constantly pushing herself to achieve more and be her very best.
There isn't really a "plot" in this book but it discusses a lot of really complex topics in a way that young kids will be able to understand. Ryan and her parents and brother have to move to a cheaper house in a less-great part of town because their landlord wants to sell the house (probably because of gentrification). Ryan has to deal with a bully who's a bit of a racist. Ryan also learns about false first impressions, that it's not good to get revenge on your siblings, and how to find the silver lining in bad situations.
Honestly, this book is so cute and the heroine is so likable, I can't see this not appealing to young kids. One of the things I love about Watson's writing is that whether she's writing for kids or teens, she never talks down to her audiences and her voice is so authentic. I feel like she really gets how kids think and want to see themselves, and that really breathes life into her books. Normally I can't stand the condescending, hand-holding tone that many middle grade books have, but I know I'll never experience that with one of Renee Watson's.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars