Bryan, Ashley. 1993. THE STORY OF LIGHTNING & THUNDER. New York, NY; Athenum. ISBN 0689318367.
A retelling of an African folktale, Ma Sheep Thunder and her son Ram Lightning are important villagers due to their ability to bring the rain. Ram Lightning keeps getting himself into mischief and eventually he and his mom are banned from the village altogether, explaining why thunder and lightning live in the sky.
The illustrations are the first thing of notice about this book. The use of bright, clear colors and very geometric shapes and lines is representative of native African artwork, so it lends to the story well, reflecting the culture the story is set in. There is a magical quality that Ma Thunder and Ram Lightning exhibit in their ability to bring the rain. This traditional tale is set in towns in Africa to bring authenticity.
Ashley Bryan's retelling takes on a very lyrical, sing-song quality at times with fun, silly rhymes and words thrown in such as uh-huh and the sound of thunder as baa-ba-lam! This does not detract from the story, but at times emphasizes what is happening with the repetition and rhyming she invokes. It makes for a fun book to read aloud to children.
Kirkus Reviews: "Written to be read aloud (perhaps to a rambunctious child), with bits of rhyme and unexpected wordplay--the King scolds Lightning: ``It is an outrage at your age to go on such a rampage!'' There is one of Bryan's uniquely vibrant, swirling, light-filled paintings on every page. "
Publishers Weekly: "Bryan takes a highly conversational, genial tone, with frequent interjections of "uh-huh" and "uh-uh," that quickly develops camaraderie between the reader, the narrator, the sprited ram, and his frazzled mother. Brilliantly colored and ingeniously patterned, Bryan's illustrations are a playful take on stained glass."
CONNECTIONSPairing this book with other folktales on thunder and lightning would be fun for a storytime or lesson exploring folktales. HOW THUNDER AND LIGHTNING CAME TO BE: A CHOCTAW LEGEND by Beatrice Orcutt Harrell would be one good choice. This book could also be paired with mythology and stories of Thor, exploring how cultures explain things.