A name might be just a word, but it elicits feelings, memories, meanings, and histories associated with it. When we feel like we need to live up to our names or live down a reputation that a name may convey, names potentially define or limit who and what we become. Names can also affect our self-perceptions. Most of us have likely pondered the idea of our given names and whether we would have chosen something different.
In his first picture book, Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie features Thunder Boy, who explores the meaning of his name. Initially, he celebrates its power and its uniqueness. When he learns he was named after his dad, whom people call Big Thunder, Thunder Boy isn’t as fond of his name, especially when people nickname him, Little Thunder. He wants a name that he can call his own, a name that celebrates a personal achievement, a pleasure, a passion, or a pastime.
Thunder Boy’s search for identify resolves itself in a naming ceremony performed by his dad, who has read Thunder Boy’s heart and mind. Alexie’s picture book, colorfully illustrated by Yuyi Morales, imparts the truth that names become a means of communication and expressing cultural diversity. Ultimately, in his name, Thunder Boy finds a connection to his father, his heritage, and himself.
Morales’ art complements these themes with its images of Native American family life, cultural lore, and displays of emotion and playfulness. In conveying how a name can carry our families, our pasts, and our dreams, Morales uses symbolic colors and images in her paintings to portray how families form bonds through music, love, play, and togetherness.
- Posted by Donna