1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (a year of discontent)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a beautifully written story that explores the nature of human cruelty and brutality from a child’s perspective as racial tensions begin to escalate in the Deep South during the Depression.

Cassie Logan is the best part of the novel. Her childlike innocence at the beginning of the book deeply contrasts against the discrimination that is constantly going on around her. In some ways, she reminds me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird as both books are written through the eyes of a young girl who hasn’t quite grown up yet. Cassie, of course, must travel a tougher road, as she faces harassment and discrimination while not fully understanding why she is being treated differently just because of the color of her skin. Parts of the book are tough to read, especially the chapters where she is humiliated by another girl just because she wouldn’t get out of her way, and her resulting confusion and anger make her seem like she could be a real person.

Just as Cassie feels flawed and real, the book portrays the sentiments of the pre-Civil Rights era in a realistic way. It perfectly captures a deeply tumultuous time in our nation’s history without feeling too much like an after school special. Every action in the story has consequences that stretch beyond a single chapter; they permeate the book as a sense of dread builds up to the climax and Cassie’s world is forever changed.

Overall, this book was a bit lengthy, and while it told an intriguing story, I felt my attention beginning to drift about two-thirds of the way through. A tighter plot would have held my interest better, even though I enjoyed the themes that were addressed. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry easily makes the case for its inclusion in the Newbery Medal winner list.

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