with the most charming illustrations by Nina Mata.
Ryan Hart is the one perpetually in the middle: between her prank-loving big brother Ray and her new baby sister Rose, and between her two best friends KiKi and Amanda. Fortunately, Rose is a little sweetheart, even if she does seem to take up almost all of Mom’s time and energy. Ray, however, is your typically self-centered older brother. When a prank war between the siblings backfires and threatens to ruin not only Thanksgiving but also Grandma’s birthday surprise, will Rose be able to maintain her trademark sunny demeanor?
As if that isn’t enough for a fifth-grader’s plate, she also has to deal with a kid at school who will not stop teasing her. Ofc, his shenanigans fade to nothing compared to the demands of one of her best friends, KiKi. Since their other best friend Amanda moved away to a new school, KiKi has become increasingly needy about being Ryan’s best best friend. How will Ryan reconcile what she knows to be true with her desire to preserve her friendships?
Luckily, Grandma and co are there to help Ryan figure out not only how to keep calm but also how to keep spreading joy. These are great lessons for any kid, told with kindness and heart in Renée Watson’s latest middle-grade novel. It’s especially refreshing to see a Black girl take center stage, as well as to absorb all the intricacies of her life growing up in blue-collar Portland, Oregon. While the book series and its heroine have been compared to the immortal Ramona Quimby, I think a more relevant comparison belongs to the even older Pollyanna series of books, with Ryan serving as the modern update. And by no means do I say that pejoratively, as the jaded and more worldly might. Ryan is a deeply lovely child, and while she doesn’t have a Glad Game of actively seeking out the positive, she is naturally more inclined to look for the good in a situation than to focus on the bad, an outlook which can help anyone build both inner strength and character.
I actually really appreciated the fact that Ryan even kindly disagreed with her mom regarding one tenet on raising baby Rose. Mom insists that too much holding will spoil Rose, an idea that 100% raised an eyebrow for me: fortunately, Ryan also agrees with me that this is most likely nonsense, while still respecting her mother’s wishes. Ms Watson deftly walks a tightrope of depicting a loving, if strictly budgeted life with a generosity of spirit from many corners.
I’m going to add this book to my kids’ growing pile of things I think they should read: perhaps they will grow to be more fervent readers in future! They will definitely enjoy Ways To Share Joy once they do. In the meantime, this is a terrific and timely read — spanning the Halloween to Thanksgiving seasons — for anyone who enjoys goodhearted fiction.
Ways to Share Joy by Renée Watson was published today September 27 2022 by Bloomsbury Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including