Friday, November 11, 2016

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Little, Brown BFYR, 2016, 32 pages

When he was born, Thunder Boy Smith Jr was given his name by his dad, Thunder Boy Smith Sr, and he really loves his dad a lot, he thinks his dad is just awesome, but...Thunder Boy Jr hates his name and just wants to have one his own.  A name that sounds like who he is, one that celebrates something cool that he has done, or expresses something about his personality. So, Thunder Boy Jr tries on a bunch of different names that reflect the things he has achieved or wants to in the future, like climbing a mountain and being called Touch The Clouds, or learning to ride a bike at age three and being named Gravity's Best Friend, or traveling the world with the name Full of Wonder:

What a surprise, then, when his dad tells him it is time for Thunder Boy Jr to have a new name.  And the name he chose is just so fitting. Thunder Boy Jr is renamed Lightning. Now, father and son are amazing- their love is loud and bright and together they light up the sky:

Thunder Boy Jr. is told in the first person, so readers know exactly how he feels about his name, and he has some very strong opinions about it. Thunder Boy is an endearing character, a bundle of energy, and has a great imagination. And all that is superbly captured in Yuyi Morales' bold, colorful digitally painted illustrations.  And there is a wonderful story behind the illustrations, which were made from the remains of an antique house in Xalapa, Mexico. You can find out how that what done in the note by the artist at the front of the book.

I think this is a smart book about a young Native American boy asserting himself and declaring his individuality within a loving intact family and community.  But, it is not a book about Native American naming traditions which are many and varied among the different tribes. Rather it is a book about identity, about finding oneself. Sherman Alexie has said in an interview that when "you talk about the Native American search for's almost always a story of loss and pain. I wanted to write a picture book in which a kid goes on a search for identity in the context of a loving family." (The Washington Post April 18, 2016)  Inspired by Jack Ezra Keats' The Snowy Day, Alexie went on to say "I wanted to replicate that experience [of a brown-skinned character, a boy who is just like him], because in literature in general, there aren't many Native American children."  I certainly hope he continues to explore this need and create more picture books like Thunder Boy Jr.

This is a book that shouldn't be missed - by anyone.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Little, Brown BFYR


No comments:

Post a Comment

Imagination Designs