Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on April 13, 2018
Great book depicting the life of a Southern black family struggling to keep their land, their dignity and their lives in the middle of the Great Depression. This is the first Logans novel, but I picked it after I'd read The Land, the latest entry in the series. Fortunately for me, The Land is also the prequel to the whole series, so there is nice continuity between two books.
Roll of Thunder is a children's book and the narrator, Cassie Logan, is a smart, bold and resourceful 9-year-old girl. Cassie is aware of racism to some extent (she and her brothers go to a blacks-only school, after all), but her parents try their best to shield their children from it. As the plot unfolds, however, Cassie is faced with scorn, intimidation and bullying from white people; she also learns from adults about much scarier stuff like beatings and night riders. Both Cassie and the gentle reader are spared the most horrific details, but if you know a bit about this period of US history, you can easily fill the missing blanks.
Despite its bleak subject and target audience, the book never indulges in black-and-white (ahem) morality, and its portrayal of characters is far from simplistic. Even the most vile racists in the book are portrayed realistically, with plenty of attention to detail; you can tell they were not born monsters, but became monsters of their own free will. Even the ending is ambiguous, a hard-won victory that feels more like a minor respite and may yet prove futile in the long battle for equality. For a children's book, this is a surprisingly grown-up outlook. I like it and if I ever have kids I'm looking forward to reading this book with them.