In Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner and Newbery Honoree Renée Watson's spirited debut chapter book, Ways to Make Sunshine, Ryan Hart is a recipe-writing, bicycle-racing queen whose first name actually means "king."
Ryan works hard to live up to the royal expectations of her name, but she finds herself facing difficult transitions after her dad loses his job. Adding to her stress is a new, smaller house, friendship discord and a dash of doubt about her natural hair. Luckily, Grandma eases that uncertainty by telling Ryan, "How you wear your hair is your choice and... it's not going to determine if you're beautiful or not. The only thing that will determine that is how you treat others."
Every chapter in Ways to Make Sunshine is a charming episode that details Ryan's heartfelt hijinks in her hometown of Portland, Ore. Each new adventure is broad enough to connect with diverse audiences while also containing nuanced, slice-of-life experiences seen through the eyes and felt through the actions of a bold, brilliant Black girl. Nina Mata's softly patterned illustrations animate Ryan's world, adding texture to sweet scenes with family and friends as well as some of her more mischievous moments. Watson (Some Places More than Others) deftly captures the straightforwardness of children like Ryan who care deeply about what's happening to the people they love, even if they're still learning how best to show their concern. Still, sometimes, they know exactly how to bring their distinctive shine to brighten up even the bleakest of circumstances. Ryan is a bright new star in chapter books. --Breanna J. McDaniel, author, freelance reviewer