A Tale Of Two YA Novels

Jaya Saxena calls Mildred Taylor’s novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry “a perfect response to To Kill A Mockingbird.” Below is her lesson from juxtaposing the two books – both narrated by young girls, one black and one white:

The main difference is that To Kill A Mockingbird is a book written for adults with a childishly simple moral, and Roll of Thunder is a book written for children that is powerfully adult. … To Kill A Mockingbird is a story about learning the difference between right and wrong, and then doing what’s right. It’s an important lesson, and one that everyone should definitely start thinking about as a kid. But it’s also simple.

Roll of Thunder takes that idea to the next level, showing the deep personal calculus necessary to weigh “doing what’s right” against public expectation, personal safety, and what kind of privilege is necessary to even be able to make that choice. Atticus Finch can do the right thing, have it not work, but still say “hey, at least I tried.” His children can be attacked and it’s considered a crime punishable by the full extent of the law. If the Logans do the “right thing,” everything they hold dear will be destroyed. If a Logan is attacked, no one in power cares.