Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, Thunder Boy Smith Sr.
But while Thunder Boy loves his dad, he wants a name that is all his own.
He wants a name that describes who he is and what he likes– like his bravery in touching a wild orca or his love of powwow dancing. In his words,
“I love my dad but I want to be mostly myself.”
Fortunately, his dad understands, and at the end of the book gives him a powerful new name that not only speaks to his son’s personality but also to the bond between the two Thunder Boys.
Thunder Boy Jr. is Sherman Alexie’s first picture book.
Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and now lives in Seattle. He has written short stories, poetry, a highly acclaimed young adult novel (which was the most banned/challenged book of 2014 according to the LA Times), and a movie. Along with fellow author Jess Walter, Alexie even hosts a podcast called “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.” I have been a fan of his work since reading his short stories in college.
His work is funny and powerful and shows life from a different perspective.
This picture book, while short and simple, is no different. At times hilarious and endearing, it beautifully illustrates every child’s search for a unique identity and the loving bond between father and son. The fact that it focuses on fathers and sons is one of the things that I love about this book, but there is a lot to love about it.
For one, the illustrations are incredible. I look for quality illustrations in a children’s book almost as much as I look for quality writing, and Yuyi Morales does not disappoint.
Bright, bold, and almost abstract at times, the illustrations are a joy to look at.
I also appreciate that this book exposes my son to children of a different culture in a way that does not stereotype their “other”-ness. Thunder Boy likes to grass dance, but he also likes to play in the dirt and go to garage sales. He’s a kid.
I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.
If you are already a Sherman Alexie fan, it will meet your expectations.
And if you aren’t, this might just make a fan out of you.