• Happy birthday Dave Barry (Starcatcher series).
  • Happy birthday Idaho, which became the 43rd U.S. state in 1890. Read Potato: A Tale From the Great Depression by Kate Lied, illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst.
  • In 1962, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Boa Lord, illustrated by Marc Simont.
  • It’s National Build a Scarecrow Day. Read Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer, The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Peter Bailey, and The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by David Diaz.
  • It’s Nations Eat Beans Day. Read the Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barros, illustrated by Sophia Blackall, the Clarice Bean series by Lauren Child, and the Harriet Bean series by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Laura Rankin.

July has been designated both Family Reunion Month and National Black Family Month. We all need to take time to celebrate the strengths and virtues of our families. For some writers, their family and their family stories provide the necessary ingredients for great books. Such is the case of our author of the day, Mildred D. Taylor.

Turning to family legends of her childhood, Taylor created a proud black family, the Logans, who own their own land in Mississippi in the thirties. The children suffer from inadequate schooling, and they see the nightriders who terrorize their community. In her most famous novel, the Newbery Medal–winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Taylor depicts the family so vividly that readers immediately love and respect the Logans are are drawn into their story. In the end, no matter what your racial background, you identify with their plight and want to battle prejudice with them. Taylor continues to follow these characters—Cassie, Stacey, Little Man, and David—through her series.

Published in 1976 at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Roll of Thunder is one of the most important children’s novels of the twentieth century. It enables children to understand a period of time unknown to them and to think about and feel what children of another era might have experienced. Often young readers who have never thought about discrimination admit this book helped them understand what it would be like to be hated for your race. In one powerful scene, Taylor simply describes the inside front cover of a textbook. There is a list recording its owners and the quality of the book. It clearly shows that when the textbook has been judged to be in poor condition, it then became the property of a black child.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry depicts the story of one remarkable family and in doing so changes the way children and adults look at their own society—the true testament of a great book. It celebrates the strength of families and their importance—no matter your race or religion.

Here’s a passage from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

But Little Man said nothing. He just stood staring down at the open book, shivering with indignant anger.

“Pick it up,” she ordered.

“No!” defied Little Man.

“No? I’ll give you ten seconds to pick up that book, boy, or I’m going to get my switch.”

Little Man bit his lower lip, and I knew that he was not going to pick up the book.

Rapidly, I turned to the inside cover of my own book and saw immediately what had made Little Man so furious.


Originally posted July 3, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: African American, Award Winning, Family, History, Multicultural, Newbery
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry


  1. suzi w. says:

    Oh I remember this book. But I need to reread it. I was taking a Black History class in h.s. and had mono, so missed 8 weeks of school. So I read this, along with some other novels, and wrote book reviews. I don’t think my guidance counselor knew I was “college prep” so he let me sign up for all these classes with interesting names that turned out to be for remedial kids. Often I was the only white kid in the class (I was in the Black History class). I never got to know my classmates well, but I was struck at the social and economic divide. Good to know that critics consider it great historical fiction. I read the sequel too. But that was back in 1988. So some time has passed.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane, which always comes with new information.

  2. Anita says:

    Thanks Suzi for the comments. An amazing book with great power.

  3. Sarah T says:

    I remember reading this book in grade school. I had grown up in a very diverse area. Roll of Thunder felt like a story that was impossible. I couldn’t understand how people could have such hate for each other. As difficult as it was to read, this book was absolutely instrumental in helping me connect to a horrific part of America’s history. Thank you for the post on it.

  4. This has long been a favorite book of mine, but when I read it aloud to my kids several years ago, the language flow lived differently than when I read it silently, and it grew even deeper in my heart. It impacted my kids in a powerful way too. They remember scenes, characters, injustices, and the beauty of family. Thank you for highlighting this treasure.

  5. I have goose bumps as this book’s mention always evokes one of my most memoriable days in literacy: I was in Oxford, MS at a literacy festival when Mildred Taylor was honored and she read from the book. Being a child of the deep south myself, it was a “bucket list” day of the highest magnitude. Thank you for featuring this incredible story, Anita!

  6. This is the book that always has stuck with me, since I read it in 8th grade, just because it made me cry SO BADLY. I ended up laying on the couch for literally hours afterward just BAWLING. Then in college I had an Adolescent Lit course and our professor asked if any of us had ever read it, and my hand shot in the air and I enthusiastically raved about how much it had made me bawl, so, since I was the only person who’d read it, she asked if I’d tell everyone what it was about. But beyond the black-family-in-the-South-during-the-Depression (and WAS it even during the Depression or was I remembering THAT wrong too?), and I somehow remembered that the main character was named Cassie, I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN what actually happened in the book. All I knew was how badly it had made me cry!

  7. Anita says:

    Carol: What a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing it.

    Rockinlibrarian: Yes, you have the time period right — sometimes we forget the details of plot but remember how a book made us feel. That often happens to me.

  8. G.Perry says:

    I found reading this book so distressing, I stopped reading it three separate times. I finally had to finish by listening to a superb unabridged book on CD of it.

  9. Nancy says:

    Mildred D. Taylor was the first author I wrote a fan letter to (at age 10). She wrote back! I sorely wish I had kept that letter. Despite being a white/middle class/midwestern girl, she made me FEEL like I was Cassie. That’s powerful writing!

  10. Liz says:

    Great to read your review! I reviewed “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” a few days ago, and at that time I could only find two other blog reviews. I’m so glad to see another blog review of this most excellent book. My review is at http://kidlitaboutpolitics.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/roll-of-thunder-hear-my-cry/ in case you’re interested.

  11. Jeni Fleming says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never read this. Absolutely next on my list!

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