Book review: Thunderboy Jr.

I love Sherman Alexie’s writing, so I was excited to see he has a new picture book.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a cute story–with deeper themes–about a chubby-cheeked kid who doesn’t think his name is “normal.” His real name is Thunder Boy Smith, named for his father, but people call him “Little Thunder,” which he thinks “sounds like a burp or a fart.”

With charm and humor, Thunder Boy imagines all the other names he might like to be called: Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Can’t Run Fast While Laughing. This part of the book practically invites kids to come up with their own names based on what they find important about themselves–as well as celebrating Native American naming traditions.

Morales’s illustrations are bright and energetic, with Thunder Boy and his little sister dancing across the pages (parents nearby, particularly the father, smile, hug, and reach out to the children) against a textured background filled with colorful abstract shapes. In the end, this short, sweet book becomes a meditation on identity and family, as well as on the importance of a name.