Written by: Jerdine Nolen
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
For ages: 5-10 years
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Feminism, Love, Family, Acceptance, Folklore.
Summary: This book tells the tale of Rose, a baby born during a thunderstorm in the Old West. This magical child sits right up and grabs a ball of lightning to hold over her shoulder, and begins to speak. Overcome with love and emotion, her parents begin to sing to Rose. Rose tells them she will keep the song in her heart and harness its power one day. Rose earned her nickname Thunder Rose that first night, from snoring so loudly along with the thunder that she rattled the rafters. As Thunder Rose grows up, her strength and resilience is a source of great pride for her parents. Rose can lift up a cow, bend iron bars, and stake new fences into the family farm without help. Thunder Rose may be sweet and polite, but she is full of thunder and lightning. Rose bends a thunderbolt out of iron and names it Cole, a constant companion and tool for life on the farm. One day Thunder Rose gets wind of a herd of stampeding bulls, and manages to stop them just in time from destroying the family’s farmhouse. Upon catching the biggest and meanest steer in the herd, Rose starts to hum the song in her heart and the steer became the sweetest and most playful bull anyone had ever met! Rose named him Tater, and they became fast friends, snuggling together in the field.
Rose goes on to create barbed wire, and catches a group of bandits trying to steal cattle. During a drought, Thunder Rose tries to lasso some clouds and get rain but is unsuccessful. All of a sudden two tornadoes come out of nowhere and Thunder Rose must face off against them. In the last few pages of the book, Rose faces off and triumphs by harnessing the song in her heart, given to her parents so long ago.
This book is AMAZING. Thunder Rose as a protagonist is smart, polite, and portrays a narrative that is not often seen. In an Author’s Note in the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the concept of the American folktale and how little voices of color are heard. In beautiful illustrations we get to know Rose and her larger than life attitude, as well as her strength and problem-solving skills. Rose’s parents not only immediately accept her, but they celebrate her abilities and allow Rose to be exactly who she is. Having a role model like this for young girls, showing Rose outdoors wrestling wild rampaging steers and continuing to treat everyone with love and respect is an incredible message to send to a reader. We highly recommend this book make its way to every bookshelf imaginable!
- How do you think Rose got so confident in her abilities?
- What do you think life is like on a farm?
- How can we be accepting of those around us like Rose’s parents are of her?
- Think of someone in your life that supports you unequivocally, how does it make you feel?
Continuing the Conversation:
- Learn more about life in the Wild West! Often it is romanticized as a life full of grand adventures and beautiful sunsets while ignoring the harsher aspects of prairie life. What facts about living out in the West surprised you to learn?
- Thunder Rose is a folktale, full of hyperbole. But what about the real cowgirls? Find out more about Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, and many more still around today!
- In the book, Rose and her family raise cattle. What other animals live on the prairie? How do they all work together to create a successful ecosystem and how can we as people help sustain wildlife all over the world?
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Jerdine Nolen is the author of Thunder Rose! She received a B.A. in special education from Northeastern Illinois University and an M.Ed. in interdisciplinary arts education from Loyola University in Chicago. She has been an educator for a number of years as a classroom teacher, curriculum writer, staff developer, family involvement specialist, and administrator. She also enjoys lecturing on a variety of topics related to books and the writing process.
“In looking over the landscape that is my work so far, I think my stories are about possibilities—possible and impossible possibilities. Possibilities are sometimes born out of great needs.”
Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning NYT Best-Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” Nelson states, “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal and collective stories of people.“