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Taylor, Mildred D. (1997). Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Puffin Books. 276pp.

Grade Range: 6-9

Genre: historical fiction

Summary and Critique

    In this fictionalized account, Mildred D. Taylor recounts her own memories of growing up in a large family and being faced with racial discrimination. This story tells of a black family's struggle to survive racism and poverty in Mississippi during the Depression Era. Nine-year old Cassie Logan learns of the social injustice in her as her happy world collapses. Cassie begins to see that the Anglo community sees her as inferior to themselves because of the color of her skin. Through house burnings, night riders, and extreme hatred, Cassie and her family fight to keep the land that belongs to them.

    Critics have addressed Taylor's ability to write about the horrors of racism with pride, strength, and respect for humanity. Readers are touched by the turmoil that Cassie and her family have to go through. Middle school students would be intrigued by the action, as well as able to see life through Cassie's eyes.

Awards

    Newberry Medal, 1977

    American Library Association Notable Book

    New York Times Book Review Best of Children's Books, 1970-1980

    Nominated for the National Book Award

    Pacific Northwest Young Readers Award

Themes/Topics

    Families

    Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

    Challenges and Triumphs

    Generations

    Friends and Enemies

    The Individual vs. Society

Author Information

    Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1943 but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from college, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching in Africa. She then returned to the United States and received her Master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles where she began writing. Taylor wrote her first book about the Logan family, Song of the Trees, in 1973, which won the Council on Interracial Books Award in the African American category. She has also written several other books about the Logan family.

    For more information on Mildred Taylor:

    Crowe, Chris. Presenting Mildred Taylor (Twayne's United States Author Series, no. 714). Twayne Publishers, 1999. 162pp.

    http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/taylor.htm Provides a biography, book reviews, lesson plans, and other resources.

    http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/taylor_mildred/ Biographical and bibliographical, as well as related links.

Media Connections

Movies

    Ruby Bridges (1998) A non-fiction account of six-year old Ruby Bridges's experience being the first African American student integrated into the New Orleans school district.

    The Color of Friendship (2000) Based on the true story of Ron V. Dellums, an African American congressman who houses a white exchange student from South Africa.

    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1978) Film adaptation of the novel.

    20th Century: 1930's – The Great Depression (2002) This film portrays the difficulties of the Great Depression and what was going on during this time period.

    Life is Beautiful (1997) This is a heartwarming story of a Jewish man's life with his wife and son, and his struggle to communicate with them and maintain a positive attitude while all are imprisoned in a concentration camp.

    My Family/Mi Familia (1995) – Explores the struggles and triumphs of three generations of a Mexican-American family, beginning with one man's emigration from Mexico to Los Angeles in the 1930s and concluding with his descendants in the 1990s.

    Cheaper by the Dozen (2003). This modern day remake of the original film depicts a married couple and their twelve children who move from the country to a Chicago suburb. This move disturbs the entire family routine, and thus creates negative feelings throughout the neighborhood.

Television

Mama Flora's Family A 1998 CBS miniseries telling the story of a black girl, Flora, born to a sharecropping family in Mississippi who later moves to Memphis, Tennessee, where her husband is killed by white landowners. The story goes on to tell the rest of Flora's life.

Music

"Justice." Lyrics by Buju Banton. From Inna Heights. V.P. Records, 1997. This song discusses the suffering of people and questions existence of justice.

Online Resources

Related Texts

    Spinelli, Jerry. (1999). Maniac Magee. Boston: Little, Brown. 180 pp. This modern day tale of an orphaned boy who stumbles upon a town where Anglos and African Americans stand divided. Readers will laugh and cry as they experience Maniac Magee's adventures with two groups of people that have more similarities than differences. Dealing with racism, this heartwarming story proves that it can be overcome by looking inside of a person, rather than just at the color of his skin.

    Ryan, Pam Munoz. (2002). Esparanza Rising. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks. 272 pp. Also set in the times of the Great Depression, a young girl and her mother are forced from their land in Mexico to a Mexican farm labor camp in California. Esparanza must hold on to her past, while learning to face the struggles with her family in her community in America.

    Lowry, Lois. (1998). Number the Stars. New York: Laurel-Leaf Books. 144 pp. Set in Denmark in 1943, Nazi's have overtaken the city. This story is told by a ten-year old girl who hides her Jewish best friend and her family so they can flee the country to safety. Filled with courage, this book is loved by middle school students, and won the 1990 Newberry Award.

    Taylor, Mildred B. (1991). Let the Circle Be Unbroken. New York: Puffin Books. 394 pp. This sequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells of the Logan family once again. In 1935, there are several new struggles, including T.J. going on trial in front of an all white jury.

    Lowry. Lois. (2002). The Giver. New York: Laurel-Leaf Books. 208 pp. Set in a futuristic community where everything must be the same, ten-year old Jonas is faced with an assignment that makes him different from everybody else, but only he knows it. He learns of the injustices in his community and must make a life-threatening decision. This story shows how a society can be socially corrupt. Winner of the 1994 Newberry Award.

    David, Jay. (1992). Growing Up Black: from Slave Days to the Present. New York: Avon Books. 276 pp. These stories present vivid memories through the eyes of 25 African America children, who discuss what it was like to grow up in America from the days of slavery to the present. The book depicts the struggles and triumphs of many ordinary people, as well as famous people such as Brooker T. Washington and Maya Angelou.

    Okutoro, Lydia. (2002). Quiet Storm: Voices of Young Black Poets. New York: Hyperion. 102 pp. This wonderful anthology of poetry is written by African American kids, but also includes a few African American poets. It truly captures the broadness and complexities of the African American culture with subject matters ranging from homelessness to pride to reflection of the soul.

    Fremon, David K. (2000). The Jim Crow Lows and Racism in American History. Berkley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers. 128 pp. This informative text discusses the history of racism in the United States from the end of the Civil War to 1968, the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Unlike many history books, this text does not hide the truth of racism in U.S. history. There are a few black and white photos, as well as famous quotes and excerpts.

Teaching Ideas

    (1) "Character Traits" Have students choose a character from the story and create two columns on their papers. In one column, hove students list 10 adjectives about that character as if they were that character. On another column, have them choose another character and list 10 adjectives about that character, but still from the perspective of the character they chose to be originally. Ask the students to get with a partner and read the lists to each other. They can take turns guessing which characters they are talking about. It would also be great to talk about the word choices with the class and see if there are any commonalities.

    [Summarized from "Through Character's Eyes" by John Forsyth in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teacher of English. October 1992, p. 2.]

    (2) "Chapter Titles" Since the chapters in this book are not titled, this is a wonderful activity to use to work on finding the main idea. Divide the students into small groups and assign each of them a certain number of chapters for which to create chapter titles. They will need to reread or skim through each chapter and create an appropriate name for each chapter.

    [Summarized from "Name That Chapter" by Edith Broida in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teacher of English. November 1989, p. 5.]

    (3) "Definition of Courage" This is a great pre-reading activity for this b4teens_book. As a class, have the students create a definition for courage. Ask them to write their own definitions first and then look up the word in the dictionary. Give the students a list of different events where courage is used. Have them rank the amount of courage that is needed for each one. Discuss as a class to see the differing perspectives. This can lead right into a discussion of how courage is used in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

    [Summarized from "Creating an Individual and Class Definition of Courage" by James Motzko in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teacher of English. November 1989, p. 4.]

(Review written by Stephanie Emanuel and edited by Jennifer E. Moore)

 

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