In 2016, I set a goal to read more diversely both to myself and aloud to my kids. As this year has unfolded, celebrating our differences has become more important than ever. 2016 has brought unspeakable tragedies born out of hate and ignorance – and the best way I know to fight those evils is to read books celebrating love and diversity. This month’s diverse kidlit choice is Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie.
Meet Thunder Boy. As our young hero tells us right from the start, Thunder Boy is, number one, his real name, and number two, it’s not normal.
He also tells us that you’d think, with Thunder Boy being such a not-normal name, that he’d be the only Thunder Boy in the entire world. But he’s not. Alas, he’s a junior.
It quickly comes out that Thunder Boy isn’t really bothered by having an unusual name. What bothers him is that it’s not his own name. He sort of likes the idea of having a cool name, if only it was really unique and about him – not his dad.
Thunder Boy has actually given this matter quite a bit of thought, and he has some suggestions.
Maybe a name that shows how brave he is? (This is my favorite page in the entire book.)
Maybe a name that reflects his love of adventure?
Maybe a name that reflects his super awesome bike skills?
Maybe a name that reflects his garage sale hobby?
Maybe a name that reflects his love for exploring?
Thunder Boy Jr. can’t talk to his dad about his feelings. How do you tell someone that you don’t want to share their name? Fortunately, Thunder Boy Sr. gets it – and he decides that his son should have his very own name…
Now that is a cool name.
We’ve had Thunder Boy Jr. on repeat around here, as Peanut is crazy about it. I’d never read anything by Sherman Alexie before (although The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is on my to-read list for sure) but I’m familiar with him as an acclaimed author and an important voice for diversity in literature – including in the literature read by youth. Thunder Boy Jr. is a fabulous book about Native American and First Nations culture. My favorite thing about this book is that it doesn’t try to do too much – it doesn’t attempt to squeeze the entire experience of living and growing in these cultures into a few short pages; instead, it focuses on one aspect of that experience and does that really well. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the characters are alive on the page. (And how cute is Thunder Boy’s little sister Lillian?)
I’ve been on the lookout for good Native American and First Nations picture books to add to our collection, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t found too many yet. (In fact, the only other one we have is Mama, Do You Love Me?, about Eskimo culture – which we love to read as well.) Sherman Alexie’s contribution to the genre is much appreciated, and has been a fantastic addition to our home library.
What’s your favorite diverse picture book? We’re always looking for recommendations around here!