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Thunder Rose
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Consider me disappointed. Painfully, wretchedly, miserably disappointed. Author Jerdine Nolen and illustrator Kadir Nelson attempted something marvelous. They were going to write a tall tale about Thunder Rose, the African-American cowgirl of the west. She would have lightning and thunder in her veins and be the kind of child that could wrassle a steer to the ground. This was going to be the new picture book classic. It had all the markings of one, there's no doubt. Sassy heroine. Good set of ideas and the illustrator of the fabulous "The Village That Vanished". And best yet, Jerdine Nolen wrote that wonderful, "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" (which, if I were you, I'd run out and grab this instant). So what happened? This book had everything going for it, and it fell flat on its face. But I'll start from the beginning.
Here's the plot of "Thunder Rose". As I mentioned, Rose was a remarkable baby. She was able to juggle lightning and thunder mere minutes after she was born and speak in complete sentences. If she got thirsty she'd merely pick up the nearest cow and drink her dry. As she grew older, Rose constructed her very own thunderbolt out of scrap iron and named it Cole. At twelve she could stop a stampede and ride a steer like a horse. When rain won't come to the prairie, Rose takes it upon herself to draw the rain from the sky and finds instead that she must do battle with a tornado.
Okay, fine. Tall tales usually have this kind of rhythmic rise and fall to the action. As a story goes on. the hero's accomplishments are supposed to get grander and more ludicrous, culminating in a showdown of some sort with either a force of nature of a force of man. Unfortunately, the words and pictures used to illustrate this text aren't up to the challenge of complimenting such a grandiose story. The narration is particularly difficult to both read and understand. I'm not talking about drawl. A good story has an ear for well spoken dialogue. Unfortunately, the dialogue in this here tall tale is sparse. Mostly, we get narration that makes some fairly odd statements. For example, after creating a barbed wire fence for her parents, the two ask Rose where she got the idea.

"Oh that," she said. "While I was staking the fence, Pa asked me to keep little Barbara Jay company. That little twisty pattern seemed to make the baby laugh. So I like to think of it as Barbara's Wire".
This is supposed to be an amusing explanation as to why we refer to barbed wire as such. Now, I'd just like to point out that this statement on the part of Rose comes clear out of the blue. Who the heck is Barbara Jay? This is a character never mentioned in the text except for this moment and there certainly isn't a single picture of a baby apart from young Rose in the book. It's such a random section in such a random scene (and believe me, it is not the only one) that I can only assume that the editor trimmed out the scenes that referred to this character beforehand and then failed to catch this non sequitor of a section later.
The whole pace of the book is just off, and it makes for awkward reading. Worse still is the melding of text and illustration. I'm the first one to say that illustrator Kadir Nelson is a genius. Thunder Rose is absolutely perfect in this book. Her gait, her expressions, and her attitude is dead right. This illustrator imbues her character with just enough oomph and polish to make you fall in love with her instantly. Unfortunately, these delightful pictures of Rose don't always work well with the story. If I read on the left page that Rose constructed a building "tall enough to scrape the sky", I don't want to look on the right page and see Rose sedately carrying milk buckets. And if the left page says that a churning tornado split into two and came at Rose from two opposite directions, I do not want to just see Rose sitting on her bull looking up at a single solitary twister. The pictures in this book are phenomenal. They just don't go well with the story at times.
So you see why I was disappointed. I was expecting a book that had the visual draw and narrative pull of Anne Isaacs's "Swamp Angel". "Swamp Angel" is pretty remarkable and it's not fair to compare the two simply because they're both modern tall tales told about strong females. On the other hand, there is no reason in the world why this book shouldn't have been one of the best new picture books of the last few years. Instead, it's so close to being a great book, and so very very far. There's stuff to love in this story, but for me it's these wonderful details that bring to book's faults staggeringly to light. A real pity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
To start off, this story did disappoint me to some degree. Reading the title and taking a quick look through the pictures leads you to believe this is going to be a tall tale set in the style of Paul Bunion and other classic literature of oral tradition. However, the book seems to be lacking a great deal. We follow the main character, Rose, from birth where we immediately learn that she is a "larger than life" character with supernatural qualities. As she grows, we would expect her to have greater powers and accomplish more amazing feats, but quite the opposite. Rose goes from harnessing thunder and lightning to... singing a cow to sleep? That doesn't seem like the making of a tall tale. Besides that, the author and illustrator didn't seem to come together very well in creating the final product. As I read about thunder rose wrestling up a gang of desperados and dropping them off at the jail, I look at the complimenting page and see Rose sitting idly by her longhorn steer. In all, I was disappointed by the inconsistencies in the book, and I only wish I knew why this book won the Coretta Scott King Award.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
The class enjoyed reading the text. The children were laughing aloud at the action of the main character. The pictures were very rich and inviting to the eye.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading this book to my boys (4.5 and 2.5 years old) and it was a lot of fun. I LOVED this story, personally. I think it was a bit old for their age group, only because of the length, but the topic was just fine. I loved seeing such a strong, beautiful little girl with such power and grace. I checked this book out from the library, but I plan to purchase it very soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I love this book! It's wonderful to see an African American AND a girl depicted as a tall-tale hero! The text is fun and very descriptive, even poetic. The illustrations are beautiful and convey the humor in the story. It might be a bit too text-heavy for very young,wiggly kids, but they'll love the story.
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on September 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
My son and I really enjoyed this book. We were lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book a couple of years ago at a NCTE conference. My son took it to class for "Book Day" and all the students enjoyed it too. What makes this book unique is that this is a tall tale about a young African American girl. It's a lesson to all children that heroes/heroines come in all sizes and colors!!
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on December 25, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Poetic language about a powerful girl who has a beautiful, powerful voice. A great antidote to sleeping or otherwise silent princesses.
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on December 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A NEW, old-school folk tale.

Thunder Rose is the Paul Bunyan of the Prairie -- a black girl of amazing strength and abilities.

This book is so much fun to read aloud. Simply amazing illustrations will captivate your family. Enjoy it together!
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on October 4, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Everyone knows Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill.......now here comes a hero from literature's Tall Tales for the girls in your life. Thunder Rose is fun, funny and exhibits true "girl power".
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Format: Paperback
This book is stunning!
The pictures remind me of Fredrick Remmington and the story is too funny!
I say,
Great Job!
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