Review of Thunder Boy Jr.

alexie_thunder boy jr.star2 Thunder Boy Jr.
by Sherman Alexie; 
illus. by Yuyi Morales
Preschool, Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.
5/16    978-0-316-01372-7    $17.99    g

“I HATE MY NAME!” Why, Thunder Boy Smith complains, couldn’t he have been named “Sam” like his mother (Agnes) wanted? And why does he have to share his name with his father, Thunder Boy Smith Sr., especially since their shared name causes people to call Dad Big Thunder, a nickname “like a storm filling up the sky,” and himself Little Thunder, which “makes me sound like a burp or a fart.” As the boy considers a number of new names, the pictures let us into his world and dreams. He once climbed a mountain (really his dad’s strong back), so he could be named “Touch the Clouds,” his little sister Lillian suggests. Lillian is no pushover, though; she also offers, considering Thunder Boy’s bike-riding prowess, “Gravity’s Best Friend.” It is Dad who comes up with just the right name, rather a diversion from the book’s theme of self-definition but unmistakable in its acknowledgment of the bond between father and son. Despite the dad-pleasing message, the book is too funny and real to veer into parental self-congratulation, and Morales’s illustrations (made from “the remains of an antique house” — you’ll have to read the note) give great life and specificity to Thunder Boy’s Lightning’s family. Dad truly is a mountain of a man, Mom rides a sporty scooter, Lillian is both brattish and adoring when it comes to her big brother; a pet dog dances happily amongst them all.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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