NATIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE MONTH and THUNDER BOY JR.

by Nancy Bo Flood on November 13, 2016

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NATIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE MONTH and THUNDER BOY JR. by Sherman Alexie

Celebrate National Native American Indian Heritage Month – all November – by celebrating Native American literature. Ask your library or bookstore for books written by Native Americans. See through their eyes. Listen to their voices. Here is a new picture book to enjoy and share with young readers.

THUNDER BOY JR. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016) written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales is a charming picture book that speaks to what all children feel – “I want to be me.”   Little Thunder was named after his father, Big Thunder – both are officially Thunder Boy Smith. But the nickname of Little Thunder has become a “storm filling up the sky,” because the nickname feels like being called a burp or a fart.

Thunder Boy laments, “Don’t get me wrong. My dad is awesome. But I don’t want to have the same name as him. I want a name that sounds like me. I want a name that celebrates something cool that I’ve done.” Thunder Boy thinks about several exciting possibilities. “Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth” is a name that tells how he touched a real orca on the nose. “Touch the Clouds” reflects how he once climbed to the very top of a mountain. “Full of Wonder” hints of how he dreams of traveling the whole wide world.

Thunder Boy’s father is indeed an awesome dad. Together father and son create a new name – a name that shouts like thunder and lights up the sky.

One of Sherman Alexie’s inspirations for THUNDER BOY JR. was “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats, published in 1962, the first picture book that focused on an African American child. “I so strongly identified with that,” Alexie says. “I wanted to replicate that experience, because in literature in general, there aren’t many Native American children.”

Also read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This autobiographical story about Alexie’s boyhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation won a National Book Award in 2007. Frequently it is on the list of most-banned books. Fortunately, Alexie Jr. keeps thundering on! absolutely-true-diary

Less than 1% of books for children are written by or about Native Americans. Read them. You will be glad you did. Support diversity in literature. Ask your library or bookstore for books that reflect the diversity in our country.

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