Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is powerful historical fiction for a young person ready to handle it. Through the eyes of nine year old Cassie Logan, we watch her unfolding discovery of the racist society of 1930's Mississippi and share her outrage at its cruelties and injustices. There are certainly many disturbing elements. Still, Cassie is cocooned in a large, supportive family and is cared for by firmly disciplining yet wise and loving parents who command their children's respect. Family loyalty is strong.
In my opinion, this is a book requiring parental involvement. A basic understanding of the post-Civil war south, including concepts like sharecropping, will add depth to a young reader's understanding. The story provides a rich opportunity for family discussion.
In the Smith home, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was required reading when we, as parents, deemed our children ready. I can think of few better ways to make the realities of racial prejudice vividly understandable to young people, or to better reinforce parental lessons about the cruelty and injustice of racism and the rightness of treating each human being with respect, without regard to the levels of melanin in one's skin.
My mild reservations are the result of a few relatively minor plot elements, most notably the Logan children's vengeful sabotage of a school bus, which they keep from their parents. Other negative elements, like stealing, are portrayed as foolish choices leading to realistic, negative consequences.