Saturday, February 2, 2008
Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Nolen, Jerdine. 2003. Thunder Rose. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. New York: Silver Whistle Harcourt. 9780152060060
Rose is born an extraordinary child, the first child born free to Jackson and Millicent. She spoke at birth and even names herself. As she grew, she continued to perform amazing feats such as twisting wire to create barbed wire. When a drought threatens her community, Rose is called into action. She uses her strength to lasso the clouds, causing them to drop rain. Although the rain helps a little, her actions cause tornadoes to threaten the cattle and town even more. Rose must use the song within her that she learned at birth, a song passed down through the generations of slaves, to calm the storm without.
3. Critical Analysis:
The story is intended for elementary students, but it packs a middle school punch with vocabulary. The story is written in an enjoyable read, but it would be difficult for a young student to read on his or her own. As I read the book to my 6-year-old niece, she often stopped me to ask me what a word or two meant. However, she enjoyed the story and thought Rose was a "funny girl to sing to the clouds."
The illustrations by Mr. Nelson add more to the story than the words at times. The scene is a dry and desert place, so the pictures are often beige and brown colors. However, the sky and parts of Rose's clothes are colored in a vibrant blue. It is a contrast that shows not only the setting of the story but the hope of a new life for this first born free child.
4. Review Excerpts:
"The watercolor, oil, and pencil illustrations capture the Wild West vistas, the textures of grass and homespun cloth, and the character's personalities, even that of Tater, Rose's trusty steer. Best of all, however, is Rose herself, the color of polished mahogany, with enough sass and savvy to overcome any obstacle. A terrific read-aloud."
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This book would be an excellent resource in a history class either during Black History Month or as part of the reading for the study of American history. It could be used to spark discussion and research about the lives of thousands of suddenly free slaves after the Civil War.