Reviewed by Dan Grussing
Sherman Alexie is an award-winning Native American author whose poems and novels candidly, humorously, and truthfully explore what it means to be Native American today. Thunder Boy Jr. is a light-hearted and beautiful exploration of the Native American naming tradition in which a person’s name uniquely captures something of themselves. Thunder Boy Jr. doesn’t like being named after his dad and wants a one-of-a-kind name for himself. Morales’ whimsical illustrations of the various names Thunder Boy Jr. considers are a fantastic and imaginative exposition of the experiences Thunder Boy Jr. values in himself.
While he doesn’t choose his own new name, Thunder Boy Jr. delights when his father gives him a perfect new name: “My dad read my mind! My dad read my heart!” His new name is both unique and ties in to his father’s name. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s pretty adorable and I found myself rejoicing along with Thunder Boy Jr. While not overly direct in any instructive way, this picture book would be a great introduction to thinking about how and why we have something universal that we often overlook: our names.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
Dan is a tutor, librarian, and observer of all things wonderful in the world. Above all else, he appreciates a hearty laugh.