Silent Thunder: A Civil War Story

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Silent Thunder

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Children's fiction about slavery typically involves young protagonists struggling with injustice, yearning to read and risking their lives for freedom; Pinkney reinvigorates this familiar framework by infusing her work with a more personal, equally hard-hitting theme. The "silent thunder" of the title refers to the urgent need for enslaved children (and adults) to suppress their own desires and thoughts. As an adult slave warns 11-year-old Summer, "Anything that makes you feel good has gotta stay cooped up, like a toad wriggling inside a croaker sack, else it can be taken away." Yet Summer is practically bursting to chat about everything, wondering who her daddy is, why her mother is so moody, why she has to beat rugs, why she can't have a china-head doll. Her older brother, Rosco, the "body servant" of young Master Lowell, has learned to read from eavesdropping on Lowell's lessons; he teaches Summer to read, too, and when she can't keep this dangerous accomplishment to herself, he makes her a doll in whom she can safely confide. Rosco, meanwhile, grapples with his own secrets, namely his knowledge of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. While Pinkney bows to a few stereotypes, generally her portraits are unusually well nuanced. As Summer and Rosco alternate as narrators, their feelings flow off the page to envelop the reader. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) FYI: Pinkney, the author of Raven in a Dove House; Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra; and several other works for children, heads the Jump at the Sun imprint. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
A silent thunder is an intense longing or desire, "something so bad that even your bones know it." For eleven-year-old Summer, learning how to read is her silent thunder, while escaping to freedom is the silent thunder of her thirteen-year-old brother Rosco. As slaves on a Virginia plantation in 1862, they know the acute dangers associated with letting these longings become known. In alternate chapters, the brother and sister relate how they handle their silent thunders and deal with the indignities of daily slave life. This remarkable historical novel examines plantation life through the penetrating eyes of two young adolescents. They are eyewitnesses and commentators to a "peculiar institution" that tests the resolve of people in an unusual way. On a personal level, Summer and Rosco have their own adolescent issuesÂľdifferences with their mother (especially for Summer), peer pressure, doubts about religion and concerns about the future, and these are sensitively covered. Furthermore, there is a dark family secret that could bind the siblings to the plantation in an unyielding way. Character development is strong in this engrossing novel, and the author's meticulous research is very evident. Rosco and Summer are two determined characters who refuse to succumb to a system designed to oppress them. Their story, set on the brink of the Emancipation Proclamation, is one of hope and fortitude. This exceptional historical novel is highly recommended. 2001, Hyperion, $16.49, $14.99, $5.99. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Jeanette Lambert
Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Set in Virginia in 1862, this powerful book tells the story of Rosco, 13, and Summer, 11, siblings who have grown up in slavery on the Parnell Plantation. As the story opens, Summer is making her annual visit to Master Gideon for his birthday inspection of her. She does not know that he is, in fact, her father, and that this visit is his "small, secret way of being your pa," as her mother later confides. Rosco has a bigger secret: he has taught himself to read, and is now teaching his sister. In alternating chapters, the children tell about life on the plantation, rumors of impending freedom, and of Rosco's desperate dream of escape. When Gideon is felled by a stroke, the boy seizes his opportunity and escapes along the Underground Railroad. This is an excellent, well-written historical novel, with two compelling narrators. Their modified dialect is easy to understand and helps readers to empathize with them. By putting a human face on this complex subject, Pinkney helps children to understand what it was like to suffer under slavery.-Elizabeth M. Reardon, McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788761607
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/24/2002
  • Format: CD
  • Age range: 9 years

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    Silent Thunder = Best Book Ever

    This is the BEST book I have EVER read on slavery...and i've read a lot of books. I have read this book over and over so many times. I love books that are on the subject of the Civil War...and this is the one that got me into the Civil War. I love the way that you can see/feel/hear a lot of pesonality coming from the characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2003



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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2002

    Love IT

    I love this book it is great I am half way through and I stated 3 days ago.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2001

    Silent Thunder a powerful rich story

    Rosco and Summer are slaves in virgina on Parnells Plantion. Rosco's silent thunder is his wanting to go to the civl war. Summer's silent thunder is her learning to read. A powerful rich story that will warm your heart and put tears in your eyes. Go back in time with Silent Thunder.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2001

    An Adventurous Novel

    Summer Parnell is a well of questions. She has a why, how come, and what for almost every thing. Rosco, her brother is diferent. He can keep a secret, and he can read. Reading is dangerous for a slave. If found out, you could be sold away or worse. Rosco's reading isn't so much of a problem for them, as long as Rosco keeps his secret. On Summer's birthday, Rosco desides to teach her to read. Can Summer keep the secret? Meanwhile Rosco has his own problems. The master is sick and wasting away. The master's wife has her brother come and take over the plantation. The new master is harsh and cruel. It isn't long before he decides to run away and enlist in the US army. If he is caught, he knows that he could lose his life. This story by Andrea Davis Pinkney is adventurous and a wonderful novel for anyone who has a silent longing. Andrea does a great job of showing the reader diferent perspectives of the same problem with different characters. The story seems like it could have really happened although it was fictional.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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