I hadn’t read anything by Sherman Alexie until this book. My wife is a huge fan of his and had picked this up from the library. It looked interesting and based on her recommendation, I had been wanting to read from his oeuvre.
Thunder Boy Jr is about a boy, about 7, who’s starting to realize his place in his family. In particular, he’s realizing that having the same name as your Dad isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The narration of the book is done in Thunder Boy Jr’s voice. It’s done well in conveying the tone and diction of a young boy. Mr. Alexie is brilliant in using the child’s voice in order to get at the bigger issue here. The kid knows what questions to ask! Even though he’s not using complicated syntax or vocabulary, the questions are hard-hitting and get right to the issue.
What I noticed as I reflected on my read of this tome, was that not only did the theme stand out, but a secondary idea was stuck in my head. Do kids understand more than we give them credit? I’m saying this boy would be self-aware enough to solve the problem on his own, but the fact that he could identify the problem and ponder it shocked me. And yet there was a feeling that this wasn’t unusual. Something to consider.
This book is a superb example of how to say a lot, without actually saying a lot. Names are very important especially to children as they become more self-aware and create an identity for themselves. I’ve never thought naming a son after his father was a good idea, and I think Mr. Alexie is forwarding the same idea. I recommend this as a read aloud to your child or maybe just a personal read for you adults out there.