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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Children’s Books

By Grace O'Reilly

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Another book from my school days is Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  It is one from her series on the Logan family.  This is the sequel to her novella, Song of the Trees.  It was originally published in 1976, by Dial Press.  The order of the books are as follows:

Logan Family Saga

  • The Land (2001)
  • The Well (1995)
  • Song of the Trees (1975)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) 4.5 Mississippi Bridge (1990)
  • Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981) 5.5 The Friendship (1987)
  • The Road to Memphis (1990)
  • The Gold Cadillac (1987)
  • All the Days Past, All the Days to Come (2020)

This historical fiction, written for children and young adults, deals with the theme of racism in the 1930’s in southern Mississippi and is told from the perspective of Cassie a 9-year-old girl.  Unlike Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird who is white, Cassie is black, so deals with first hand racism towards her and her family.

Jerry Pinkney did the original cover design, and the copy I have is Cassie and her brothers standing on the porch, while a fire blazes behind them, and this cover design is by Max Ginsberg.  There have been several different cover designs over the span of time.  2016 marked the book’s 40th anniversary.

An appropriate book for the start of school season.  The Logan children are walking to school.  They hear about a man nearly being burnt to death by white people, and so violence is already introduced.  Racism is seen in the very first chapter from the white children’s school bus, spreading dust all over them. In their school, their teacher, Miss Crocker is racist too.  Inside a book, (mentioned on page 26), ‘Nigra’ is stamped for the student’s race.  It is a very sad, unjust and cruel start, and the first of many more.  All the white students are given brand new books while the black students are given the tatty old ones.

Boycotting and gangs, mobs and torture, bullying and vandalism, slavery, hardship, unfair dismissal from work, robbery, cheating, murder, deformation are all elements of Taylor’s book.  Although these particular stories, centred around the Logan family are historical fiction, there is ugly historical fact ingrained in here too, and this was how life really was for many black people living in the 1930’s in southern Mississippi, when and where the book is set.  Thankfully for most, and in many parts of the world, things have now changed for the better.

“Roll of thunder

hear my cry

Over the water

bye and bye

Old man comin’

down the line

Whip in hand to

beat me down

But I ain’t

gonna let him

Turn me ‘round”

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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