Allison's Book Bag

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Posted on: July 28, 2015

In honor of Allison’s Book Bag being five years old this year, I’m taking this week to repost my most popular reviews over the past five years. From 2011, there is….

Somedays I like to plop on a sofa and read formulaic books that are about as memorable as toilet paper and require as much thought as an amusement park. Other days I prefer to stretch out with multifaceted books into which their authors have obviously divulged their souls. While such complex fare requires me to slow down the way one does for a yellow light and to put forth the effort one might for a first date, they also linger with me and ultimately alter my perspective on life. When in the mood for THAT type of book, pick up Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.

The Logan children (Stacey, Cassie, Christopher John, and Little Man) and T.J. are friends. Yet if one’s main buddy is an individual like T.J., one might think twice about whether to even have friends. T. J. knows all the town gossip and teases the Logan children with his knowledge of it, until they find themselves eager to hear even the most horrific tale. At times, it seems that his only reason for being their friend is that their mother is a teacher and he seeks to pry test answers from them. In contrast, Jeremy risks his family’s wrath to hang out with the Logans. He invites them to visit when family is away. At Christmas, instead of tricking Stacey out of a much-needed new winter coat the way T.J. did, Jeremy gives a hand-made recorder to Stacy. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is about friendship.

Cassie and Lillian Jean have never been friends. They do not walk together, talk with one another, or attend the same school. They probably could have neatly avoided each other except for that dastardly visit to the dinky town of Strawberry. There, Cassie accidentally banged into Lillian Jean, who demanded Cassie to kneel and apologize. Cassie submitted to Lillian Jean under duress of adult pressure, but revenge would be hers in time. In the same way, every morning the Logans had to jump out of the way of a school bus to avoid being run down, but revenge would be theirs in time. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is about bullies.

The Logan children dress up and walk an hour to school by direct order of their parents. They help maintain the family farm by daily doing chores. They even retire to bed when instructed. Despite moments of disobedience, they are respectful and good children. Their parents both work, so that the Logans might keep their home and land. The mother makes rain gear out of calf skins. She also defends her children when they protest against prejudice at school. The father, partly out of fear for their safety, forbids the children to shop at the Wallace store. They are caring parents. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is about family.

By now, it should be clear Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is not your average children’s book. Yet the book is about even more than relationships. It is also about social injustice. Jeremy risks punishment when he walks with the Logans, because his family is white and the Logans are black. Lillian Jean demands Cassie to kneel, because she feels in being white she is superior to Cassie who is black. The land is important to the Logans, because many blacks do not have land and so have to work as sharecroppers to whites. Some of T. J’s. tales involve beatings and burnings of blacks. Ultimately, to be black meant to fear that those tales could become about oneself.

Unlike most books about social injustice, which tend to read like broccoli that has been smothered with peanut butter, characters and settings have not been sacrificed for the sake of the message. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is far more than a tract. Underneath its layers, you will not only find the story of an African-American family in Mississippi during the Great Depression, but also universal values of family, friendship, loyalty, integrity, independence, and choice. As such, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is an important and unforgettable book.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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