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When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  156 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
In moving verse, Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis gives new voice to seventeen heroes of civil rights. Exquisitely illustrated by five extraordinary artists, this commanding collection of poems invites the reader to hear in each verse the thunder that lies in every voice, no matter how small. Featuring civil rights luminaries Coretta Scott King, Harvey Milk, Mohan ...more
Hardcover, 44 pages
Published December 26th 2012 by Chronicle Books (first published December 1st 2012)
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Cindy Hudson
Jan 30, 2013 Cindy Hudson rated it it was amazing
Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has created a new book of poems for young people about the lives of those around the world who sought to break race, class and sexual equality barriers through their actions. When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders is a collection of poems highlighting the lives, strengths, and accomplishments of seventeen men and women who fought against the restrictions put upon them by the societies they lived in.

Included in the list are well known activist
Oct 29, 2013 Betsy rated it really liked it
Poetry is of the people by its very definition. Though sometimes considered the property of the elite (usually by folks who were forced to eat poetry unfiltered in high school by bored teachers) at its best it is a format that any human with a sense of rhythm and/or timing can use to their advantage. Poetry is the voice of people who are oppressed. When Chinese immigrants found themselves detained for weeks on end on Angel Island, they scratched poetry into the very walls of the building. Not cu ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it
J. Patrick Lewis, the 2011-2013 Children's Poet Laureate, does an excellent job with this handsome picture book featuring poems and bios about civil rights leaders.

This is not run of the mill, because the book is so well-written and eye-catchingly illustrated by five artists, and also because of the variety of leaders Lewis chose to feature. There is Coretta Scott King, Mohandes Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Jackie Robinson. But there is also Dennis Banks of AIM; Mitsuye Endo, of the World War II
Patrick Kelly
J. Patrick Lewis’s When Thunder Comes is a unique book. Lewis writes fifteen poems to honor figures from the history of civil rights—not only the American Civil Rights Movement—which are individually illustrated by one of five different collaborating illustrators. The poems themselves are simple fare, and on their own could be read by middle schoolers (more on this in a minute). In them Lewis tries to hone in on the most essential or memorable elements of a particular person’s contributions to c ...more
Summer Hemphill
May 13, 2015 Summer Hemphill rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens-lit
*NCTE Notable Poetry*

J. Patrick Lewis highlights the lives of seventeen men and women who fought to break barriers with a collection of unforgettable poems.

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders highlights activists such as Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King and Dennis James Banks who fought for racial, sexual, and economic equality. Through this collection, Lewis is able to not only tell the story of these hero's but also relay to readers what a hero truly is. Using a variety of po
Christian Sam
Mar 19, 2015 Christian Sam rated it it was amazing
This book was simply amazing, but I will not lie, when I first saw the cover of the book I did not have any intentions for this book to be as good as it was. This book is not just dazzling with color, but the pictures speak a thousand words to the reader.

This book is not just one book to me, it is a book filled with several different poems based around the time of the civil rights movement. That by far was the most fascinating thing I had seen, which makes the book itself unique. It at the same
Feb 13, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
1. "Today we have a chance to experience some poetry related to Civil Rights here in America. Specifically, we've been spending time talking about African-American Civil Rights. We've talked about many Civil Rights leaders in class so far. Who are some that you can think of?" (students respond) "What qualities did these leaders have that allowed them to influence others?" (students respond & we create a list on the board). "We are going to read five poems today that are about different Afric ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: t-l-307
This book includes many poems that essentially give a voice to civil rights leaders. The voices are of Coretta Scott King, Harvey Milk, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Mendez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mamie Carthan Till, Helen Zia, Josh Gibson, Dennis James Banks, Mitsuye Endo, Ellison Onizuka, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Yunus, James Caney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Readers reflect on these poems through intrigue. Every poem involves some major “hot button” topics whether they are p ...more
Kaitlyn Steckbeck
Oct 01, 2014 Kaitlyn Steckbeck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diverse
I wish that I could give this book ten stars because I thought that it was amazing and honestly it gave me chills. The book "When Thunder Comes" holds a variety of poems based on the Civil Rights Movement period and tells the story of many leaders and victims during this time. One of the poems that really stuck with me was called "The Innocent". It was about a mother who had to bury her fourteen-year-old son, Emmett Till, because he was murdered. Emmett was an African American who supposedly eit ...more
May 17, 2014 Kelly rated it really liked it
Written by J. Patrick Lewis, 2011-2013 Children's Poet Laureate, with illustrations by four illustrators done in oil, acrylic, and watercolor with maroon marbled end papers. These poems about civil rights leaders in many countries are paired with full-bleed portraits. Short bios in the back about these seventeen leaders, including Coretta Scott King, Harvey Milk, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Mendez, aung San Suu Kyi, Mamie Carthan Till, Helen Zia, Josh Gibson, Dennis James Banks, Mits ...more
Edward Sullivan
A stirring collection of poems about global peacemakers and social activists, quite a few lesser-known but worth knowing. Brief biographical sketches follow the poems. A good collection of contributing illustrators, too,
Feb 20, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing
When Thunder Comes is a great book for another looking for poems about civil rights activists. This book is not only great for Black History month, it is a great book to talk about ALL civil rights leaders. The book includes poems about Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, Gandhi, Harvey Milk and many more. My favorite poem of the book is about the baseball hall of famer, Josh Gibson. The poem talks about how Gibson smashed the Jim Crow laws and hit over 800 home runs. I especially like the allitera ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Shelli rated it really liked it
When Thunder Comes is an informative collection of poems paying tribute to seventeen heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Each day my daughter and I read three poems, then read the paragraph in the afterward about each individual; which aided in understanding the message the author was trying to convey. I wouldn't recommend reading this book straight through; instead flipping between the poems and the afterward information. Educators can easily incorporate these poems in when discussing Civil Ri ...more
Jul 31, 2014 Scott rated it liked it
I feel like this had the potential to be quite impactful, but the poems themselves were hit and miss. About half were quite good, and others didn't clearly portray what the impact of the individual was. There were a few that felt a bit forced the rhymes and structure.
I thought the illustrations were well suited for the book.

I do wish the poems had been presented by timeline, or even just listed the date of the accomplishment. It would have been more impactful, for example, knowing that Sylvia
This book has poems written from the perspective of seventeen different fighters for equal rights of all mankind. At the bottom of each poem is the name of the poem's voice, who they were, and when they lived. Each poem has a bit of a different rhythm, or flow, and some stanzas are printed "crooked" to give the book this off-kiltered feel of something being not right, or unsettling. Paired with beautiful, colorful, and culturally different illustrations to add to the style of the text and illust ...more
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Great collection of poetry focusing on a variety of global men and women who have stood for change.
This is definitely for older audiences. The poems are unflinching in what they look at- KKK murders (Freedom Summer), racially motivated murders (Emmett Till), deep seated hatred (Harvey Milk, Sylvia Mendez, Japanese Internment)- and the back matter includes more information.

I am reminded a bit of Rad American Women by this book, I think simply because it’s a book of activists and probably by the broad range of people examined. But the format it completely different. These are poems introducing
Teresa Scherping
Dec 15, 2014 Teresa Scherping rated it really liked it
From activists to baseball players to children to politicians, civil rights in our world have been advanced in different ways by extraordinary individuals. In this collection of short poems, we get a strong impression of each of these people who fought to change the world for the better. You might already know Mohandas Gandhi, Coretta Scott King, Jackie Robinson, and Nelson Mandela. But you'll also be introduced to Aung San Suu Kyi, Dennis James Banks, Sylvia Mendez, and Muhammad Yunus. Hear a l ...more
Mar 07, 2013 Tasha rated it it was amazing
These poems celebrate heroes who have fought for civil rights. Each poem focuses on one person, tells their story in imagery and strength. Seventeen men and women are on the pages here, people from around the world and from the American Civil Rights Movement. These are heroes who fought for justice and for equality. Their stories and these poems are filled with courage, vision and a sense of doing what is right. They will serve as inspiration for future generations who will have their own civil ...more
Julie Rand
Oct 28, 2013 Julie Rand rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult-lit
This book of 17 poems about a variety of people engaged in civil rights is designed for the older reader. The language in these poems would be too challenging for younger children and the subject matter would be unlikely to appeal to kids under ten.

The goal appears to be to inspire the reader and to teach kids about some of the great freedom fighters in the last century. I found many of the poems required more than one reading in order to get the meaning; but the biographies included in the back
This book has poems about various civil rights leaders written by the former children's poet laureate, J. Patrick Lewis. Among the leaders included are some well known figures in history, such as Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and Gandhi. Lewis also includes poems for some lesser known activists, such as Mitsuye Endo, Dennis James Banks, and Aung San Suu Kyi. In the back of the book, the author includes mini biographies of each of the leaders who appear in the book. Although many of the poems ...more
NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award Winner J. Patrick Lewis has crafted fifteen poems celebrating the lives of seventeen social activists. Some of them, such as Coretta Scott King, Mohandas Gandhi, and Aung San Suu Kyi, will be familiar to readers while others, like Mitsuye Endo and Helen Zia, won't be as familiar. But they will be now, thanks to the efforts of Lewis to honor them through his words. One of my favorite poems "The Slugger" celebrates baseball slugger Josh Gibson who never ...more
As our nation prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (Aug. 2013), I see no time more apropos to read "When Thunder Comes."

"The poor and dispossessed take up the drums / For civil rights -- Freedoms to think and speak, / Petition, pray, and vote. When thunder comes, / The civil righteous are finished being meek...."

Thus begins J. Patrick Lewis' very moving book. Lewis, The Poetry Foundation's Children's Poet Laureate (2011-2013), writes seventeen poems on different
Young Peoples Pavilion
This book is very useful for classrooms. It utilizes the magic and music of poetry with the perseverance, strength, struggle and beautiful stories of Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King. Lewis also includes lesser-known names, such as Mitsuye Endo, a Japanese American woman interned during World War II, and Dennis James Banks, who cofounded the American Indian Movement.

Each poem tells about a civil rights leader or leaders. A sense of dignity and weight that suits their topics
I really enjoyed the biographical information at the end. I found it difficult to understand several of the poems though without that background. Some of the poems were great, but some didn't clearly communicate what the person had done. It's nice to have this as a resource for the brief biographies and for a few of the poems. I would use the Sylvia Mendez one when I read Duncan Tonatiuh's book Separate is Never Equal.
I find Lewis's poetry to be inconsistent in quality: sometimes I love it, other times I'm on the fence. This book has both in it. Some poems are better than others. I like that he includes a wide variety of civil rights leaders from all over the world, but I'm not sure all of them have the same historical weight. (African American baseball players and segregation fighters, Chinese- and Japanese-Americans who've felt prejudice, international leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Ghandi, the first ga ...more
Aug 10, 2015 Kaila rated it really liked it
Beautiful poems that all seem to belong in this book. The amount of illustrations on each page was on point, for it did not overshadow the poem. The art was there, and did what it was suppose to do, which is support/ push the poem forward. I was impress of the overall diversity of this book and shown light on civil leaders that I personally aren't spoken of. Best part was the fact the book had nice descriptions of each poem in the back which I could appreciate.
Jan 03, 2016 Becky rated it really liked it
It is too bad that the cover of this book shows what most American expect to see when the topic of Civil Rights is discussed - Blacks in the 1960s, because this book is so much more. This book contains 15 poems, by J. Patrick Lewis, and 15 paintings, by 5 different artists. Although 5 of the poems are about African-Americans, the other 10 poems are about people who fought for their Civil Rights, either in the United States or across the world. This view of Civil Rights is needed in the American ...more
Amy Rachuba
Aug 31, 2014 Amy Rachuba rated it liked it
For the older elementary reader, more serious poetry about 17 civil rights leaders, from Ghandi to Harvey Milk to Sylvia Mendez. Insightful index at the end, to help place the leaders and provide historical context. A variety of poetry styles used, and all with very serious tones.
Jun 11, 2014 Danielle rated it it was amazing
When Thunder Comes is a book full of poems about civil rights leaders. This book puts a new perspective on several major civil rights leaders that students may not have thought about before. When Thunder Comes can be paired with units on activists, civil rights, poems, and art.
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J. Patrick Lewis is the current Children's Poet Laureate. He has written more than seventy children's books, including Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses. J. Patrick Lewis lives in Ohio.
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