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Thunder Rose was born in the middle of a huge thunder and lightning storm. She wrapped the lightning into a ball and began to talk to her astonished parents. So overcome with love for their first free-born child, Rose’s parents began to sing a sweet, old melody that Rose captured and set at the bull’s-eye of her heart. The rest of Rose’s adventures, from stopping a herd of stampeding steer at the age of twelve to lassoing a cloud and stopping twin twisters, are no less amazing. Through it all Rose’s indomitable can-do spirit shines through it all like a simple sweet melody rising over the thunder and lightning of a storm.
In the tradition of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, Nolen has created an original tall tale of equally epic proportions. In the author’s note Nolen states that she wanted to write a tall tale that come out of love and joy and celebrated the African-Americans who settled in the west after the Civil War.
The text of this Coretta Scott King Honor Book is best read aloud and includes exaggerated phrases, such as “Rose vaulted into the air and landed on the back of the biggest lead steer like he was a merry-go-round pony.” The vocabulary is large and colorful; when you read the book aloud take time to define words, like “irascible,” “riotous,” and “cataclysmic.” Nelson’s painterly style is perfectly suited to the story. The illustrations highlight the strong and spunky Rose in the foreground with miles of clear, blue sky and “paper-bag brown” prairie in the background.
This book is best for children with slightly longer attention spans; I’d recommend it for children in elementary school. Pair this book with Dust Devil or Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs for a storytime or unit about heroines in tall tales. Thunder Rose harnesses the clouds and brings a rain storm to the dry prairie, so this book could also be used as an introduction to a unit on weather.
Reading a tall tale is a wonderful way to introduce figurative language. Check out this study guide for many examples of figurative language in this book, as well as a wonderful vocabulary list.