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When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by [Lewis, J. Patrick]
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Length: 44 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Lewis once again stretches his own poetic boundaries with this moving and informative collection of poems that introduce 17 courageous leaders of civil rights causes in America, Bangladesh, Burma, India, and South Africa. Some of the names will be unfamiliar to teens, but their concerns should be clearly understood. A technically perfect Shakespearean sonnet prefaces the collection, promising to draw from the poet's "thin bag of verse" some "tales of thunder" ... "For history was mute witness when such crimes/Discolored and discredited our times." The poems, written in various styles-rhymed couplets, free verse, quatrain, prose-evoke sadness, but never hopelessness; speak of bigotry and hatred replaced by acceptance and equality; and describe inhumane mistreatment that has resulted in positive change and wrongful punishment that has brought about freedom. To young Sylvia Mendez, every door at the public school "was locked with a secret combination of frowns," but she found the key. To Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who gave small loans to the country's poor, money for fishing gear allowed some beggars "to catch eel and carp-and profits." Other subjects include Harvey Milk, Coretta Scott King, Josh Gibson, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Nelson Mandela. A note about each person, with a resource, is appended. Five illustrators each contributed three of the full-page paintings that range from softly detailed portraits in lush oils to colorful caricatures, acrylic folk art, and bright watercolors contrasted with shadowy gray. This thoughtfully written, carefully and cleverly worded collection demonstrates Lewis's poetic versatility and his ability to capture the essence of each subject and situation.-Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Heights Public Library, OHα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Seventeen civil rights leaders from around the world leap off the page, animated in pulsing verse and vibrant imagery. Lewis gives voice to a variety of fighters, including well-known activists like Mohandas Gandhi and Coretta Scott King, and less familiar heroes such as Dennis James Banks and Sylvia Mendez, illuminating each with poetic form, style, rhythm, and tone as individual as the subjects themselves. Mamie Carthan Till’s elegy for her murdered son, Emmett, heaves with languid despair, while Aung San Suu Kyi’s proclamation against Burmese tyranny crackles with ironic outrage. The diversity of images is similarly stunning, with some unlikely pairings of artist to activist resulting in extraordinarily moving depictions. John Parra’s gentle portrait of Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus glows with warmth and virtue, while Meilo So’s smudgy likeness of slain politician Harvey Milk captures his determination and foreshadows his demise. Exquisite book design—with hand-lettered titles and stanzas carefully off-kilter—knits everything together with cohesive polish. While the individual portraits are impressive on their own, their juxtapositions express unmistakable equality, offering readers a profound understanding of both what it takes to stand up and what happens when we stand together. Grades 4-7, --Thom Barthelmess

Product Details

  • File Size: 2590 KB
  • Print Length: 44 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC (January 4, 2013)
  • Publication Date: January 29, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BJ7G1QA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,935 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Cynthia Hudson on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has created a new book of poems for young people about the lives of those around the world who sought to break race, class and sexual equality barriers through their actions. When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders is a collection of poems highlighting the lives, strengths, and accomplishments of seventeen men and women who fought against the restrictions put upon them by the societies they lived in.

Included in the list are well known activists such as Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King. But there are also lesser-known names, such as Mitsuye Endo, a Japanese American woman interned during World War II, and Dennis James Banks, who cofounded the American Indian Movement.

Each person listed is given an honorific title, like "the first" for Jackie Robinson, who was the first African American baseball player in the modern era, and "the crusader" for Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

Five artists illustrate the poems: Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra and Meilo So. At first I worried that this may make the drawings too separate and feel unrelated to each other. Instead, it brings richness to the illustrations that highlight the unique qualities of each civil rights leader.

Brief biographies at the back add detail to the lives of the leaders celebrated through verse. When Thunder Comes is a great book to share with your children and introduce them to some of the major issues of the 20th century.

The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Format: Hardcover
Poetry is of the people by its very definition. Though sometimes considered the property of the elite (usually by folks who were forced to eat poetry unfiltered in high school by bored teachers) at its best it is a format that any human with a sense of rhythm and/or timing can use to their advantage. Poetry is the voice of people who are oppressed. When Chinese immigrants found themselves detained for weeks on end on Angel Island, they scratched poetry into the very walls of the building. Not curses. Not cries. Poems. It seems fitting then that J. Patrick Lewis should cull together poems to best celebrate "civil rights leaders" both known and unknown. People of different races, creeds, religions, and even sexualities are celebrated in a book that can only be honestly called what it is: one-of-a-kind.

Seventeen people. That doesn't sound like a lot of folks. Seventeen people turning the tide of history and oppression. Seventeen individuals who made a difference and continue to make a difference every day. And to accompany them, seventeen poems by a former Children's Poet Laureate. In "When Thunder Comes", J. Patrick Lewis highlights heroes of every stripe. And, in doing so, lets young readers know what a hero truly is.

Lewis isn't phoning this one in. These poems are straight up honest-to-god works of poetry. Though the book is a mere 44 pages or so, its picture book size is misleading indeed. Consider this poem about Aung San Suu Kyi containing the following lines: "When a cyclone flicked off the roof of my prison / like the Queen of Hearts, turning my life to shame / and candle, the General had a mole removed.
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Format: Hardcover
When Thunder Comes is grand in tone. This is not to say that the poems are inaccessible, and you will find a few flashes of humor. But each poem tells about a civil rights leader or leaders, so for the most part the poems have a dignity and weight that suit their topics.

Lewis uses a variety of poetic forms that I'll admit I can't identify at a glance--I did see a couple of sonnets, a villanelle, and a few free verse poems. Like the poetic forms, the artwork varies in that there are five different illustrators: Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonoya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So. This creates a rich feel to the series of page spreads. I especially like Meilo So's illustration for "The Auntie," Jim Burke's illustration for "The Slugger," Tonya Engel's illustration for "The Innocent," John Parra's illustration for "The Captive," and R. Gregory Christie's illustration for "The First."

The following is a list of the people in the book: Coretta Scott King, Aung San Suu Kyi, Josh Gibson, Mamie Carthan Till, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mitsuye Endo, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Helen Zia, Ellison Onizuka, Dennis James Banks, Harvey Milk, Muhammad Yunus, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and Sylvia Mendez. These are amazing stories, and the poems have to be powerful to tell them. J. Patrick Lewis has done justice to this list of heroes--and make no mistake, these are heroes. For example, Lewis's poem about Gandhi focuses on his work in behalf of the outcast "untouchables." The poem concludes majestically:

For we are not the ones to say
What will erode and what endure,
Where the iron, where the clay,
Who the foul and who the pure.
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