Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.  Little, Brown, 2016

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name. Because his father is also Thunder Boy Smith, Thunder Boy Jr. is nicknamed Little Thunder, which sounds to him “like a burp or a fart.” He wants his own name, one based on his talents, like learning to ride a bike when he was three (Gravity’s Best Friend); or his interests, such as garage sales (Old Toys Are Awesome), or powwow dancing (Drums, Drums, and More Drums!); or his future dreams of traveling the world (Full of Wonder). “I love my dad but I want to be mostly myself.” It turns out his dad understands, announcing one day that it’s time for Thunder Boy Jr. to get a new name: Lightning! “My dad and I will light up the sky.” A story the author has stated is based on his own Spokane heritage is full of warmth and good-hearted humor. Lively, playful illustrations represent both Thunder Boy and the world of his imagination. Dialogue bubbles are used throughout, while Thunder Boy’s little sister, Lillian, mentioned once in the text, has a key role in the visual narrative. Honor Book, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: Go to the library and ask your librarian about other books on thunder and lightning storms.
  • Talk: Ask your family what your name means. Are you named after anyone in your family? Do you have a middle name? What does your last name mean?
  • Sing: Make rain/a thunderstorm using hands- start with rubbing hands quietly, then snap, then tap on legs, then clapping.
  • Write: Practice writing your name.
  • Play: Draw a picture of yourself or act out doing something you love to do
  • Math or Science: Talk about differences and similarities between lightning and thunder. Which one is audible and which one is visual? What are some connections between thunder and lightning?




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