cover image Silent Thunder

Silent Thunder

Andrea Davis Pinkney. Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0439-9

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.