Book Review: Thunder Boy Jr.

Apr 7, 2017

This is KLCC. I'm Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of "Thunder Boy Jr." by Sherman Alexie, with illustrations by Yuyi Morales.  

In his first ever picture book, “Thunder Boy Jr,” Seattle author Sherman Alexie finds the perfect artistic enhancement in Caldecott Honor award winning artist, Yuyi Morales.  Thunder Boy Jr, the story’s young narrator, hates his name because it is “not even close to normal” and because – like Alexie – it’s not even his own, since he’s named after his father. After Thunder Boy tries out several alternatives, his father “reads his heart” and gives him a name of his own.

Sherman Alexie is a National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author for his novels for young adults.  Here, he finds a new simplicity of voice in writing for the toddler crowd, lyric, evocative.  Yuyi Morales’ multilayered illustrations burst with life.  Particularly effective are her use of a variety of perspectives and viewpoints to enhance the story line.  A note on the verso facing the title page explains that the background layer of the illustrations are composed from digital scans of the textures and colors of the decaying adobe house in Xalapa, Mexico where she has her studio.

The book can be read simply as an exploration of the bond between a loving father and son.  The story can be seen as an exploration of the importance of naming, of the quest to find the balance between the connection of heritage and the celebration of the unique self.  It can be viewed – like Keat’s “Snowy Day” – as another significant contribution to write people of color into our canon of picture books.

Or it can simply be read and enjoyed, preferably with the nearest toddler.

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing of "Thunder Boy Jr” by Sherman Alexie.