When I was working on my Masters, I had to design several "units". One of them was part of the requirements for student teaching, and had to relate directly to the grade level I was teaching. So, I settled on a unit centered around Tall Tales. There are the various traditional tall tales: Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Pecos Bill. But, I also went looking to see if I could find something new. I found that something new in Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The book is recommended for children 5 to 8 years old.
Thunder Rose takes elements from many of those traditional tall tales, but has other elements all its own. Rose sits up and talks immediately after her birth to freed slaves in the post-Civil War American West. Born the night of a storm, she grabs hold of a bolt of lightening, placing upon her shoulder after she "rolled it into a ball." The next morning, her mother's milk isn't enough, so she takes to drinking directly from the family's cow...
As a two-year-old, she takes some scrap iron and fashioned into a big thunderbolt and named it Cole. "Wherever she went, Cole was always by her side." Of course, she performs a myriad of amazing feats growing up, to include wrestling a big Longhorn bull to stop the stampeding herd before it overran the family farm when she was twelve, after which she tamed him by humming her song to him. She decided to name him "Tater" on account of potatoes being his favorite vegetable. She also invented "Barbara's Wire" while building a pen for all those stampeded Longhorns: she found that "little twisty pattern seemed to make the baby laugh"... She captures a gang of cattle rustlers... She lassos a cloud to make it rain... She calms a pair of tornadoes with her song... All this and still a girl!
Thunder Rose is a cute story, and I really like the illustrations. The author's note at the front of the book gives a little explanation on what was behind the writing of this tall tale: an old desire to add to American folklore and wanting to share "a little-known part of American history" of how many freed slaves went West, how "these bold, brave and adventurous spirits heroically took the opportunity to set themselves down in those wide-open spaces to live free."
Thunder Rose is also a 2004 Coretta Scott King Honor Book for illustrator Kadir Nelson. "The Coretta Scott King Awards are presented annually by the American Library Association to honor African-American authors and illustrators who create outstanding books for children and young adults."