Sunday, May 26, 2019

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner, illustrated by Greg Ruth

It's Memorial Day weekend, and that means that Rolling Thunder will be in Washington DC. In fact, it is the 32nd Rolling Thunder, and sadly, probably its last. It seems that cost of being there has just gotten to high for these patriots to afford. You can read about it HERE

In honor of the (possibly, but hopefully not) last year of Rolling Thunder, I am republishing my review of Kate Messner's picture book about Rolling Thunder that originally was posted in 2017 on  The Children's War.
Early one morning, an excited young boy and his family board a train that will take them to Washington DC, where they will meet up with the boy's grandpa. At the same time, grandpa is kissing his wife goodbye and hopping on his motorcycle, complete with side car, also heading to Washington DC.

It's Memorial Day weekend, time for the annual veteran's Ride for Freedom, and this year, our young narrator is riding with his grandpa, along with over a million other of the nation's veterans, all on their motorcycles. Grandpa is riding for friends Joe and Tom, killed in Vietnam, and his grandson is riding for his Uncle Zach, a pilot flying in a different war.

The weekend begins with camping out with all the veterans, and meeting some of his grandpa's old friends:

Early next morning, everyone is up and ready to go, riding through the streets of Washington DC to honor all veterans and especially to bring awareness to people of those soldiers who are still MIA (Missing in Action) or POWs (Prisoners of War):

The Ride for Freedom ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also simply called the Wall, listing all the names of service members of the Armed Forces who fought and died in Vietnam, as well as those who are still considered to be MIA. After finding a name they want listed on the wall, the narrator makes a charcoal rubbing of it, then there a speeches and memory sharing by different vets:

As the day draws to a close, it is clear that the Ride for Freedom is an important experience between this grandpa and grandson, drawing them closer together in a very meaningful way:

There are all kinds of books available that can teach kids about Memorial Day and its significance and they are certainly important. But I believe Rolling Thunder is the fist book to be written about this special group of veterans.

Messner has written Rolling Thunder in a telegraph-style rhyme, allowing for a great deal of information to be packed into a few well chosen works, and she has really done it well. The mixture of clipped words and slightly longer sentenced also carried the sound of a motorcycle as it revs and rides. At the same time, she has given readers a poignant and emotionally charged narrative.

Greg Ruth has chosen a palette of bright oranges, warm reddish-browns, khaki, and olive greens for his realistic illustrations that manage to reflect the mood and feeling of the book perfectly.

One Memorial Day weekend, we were going to our house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and while waiting for the Cape May-Lewes ferry, our car was suddenly surrounded by motorcycles. It didn't take long to realize it was part of Rolling Thunder on their way to Washington DC. The ferry hadn't arrived yet, and the wait was long, so we socialized with the bikers while we waited and waved goodbye when the ferry docked in Lewes. What a nice bunch of guys! This year the 32nd year Rolling Thunder has been riding to Washington DC to keep the memory of POWs and MIAs alive in the hope of bringing the home someday. It has now expanded to include POWs and MIAs from all wars that the United States has fought in. Will we remember our lost veterans when Rolling Thunder no longer rides for them? I hope not.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was purchased for my personal library

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

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