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Thunder from the Sea


About The Book

It's 1929 and thirteen-year-old Tom Campbell has always wanted a real family with a real house and a dog of his very own. Since he was three years old, the only home he has ever known has been the Mission orphanage.
When he is sent to live and work with fisherman Enoch and his wife, Tom finally sees his dream wihin reach. And when he rescues a Newfoundland dog in the middle of a terrifying squall, Tom feels as if both he and the dog, which he names Thunder, have found a place to call home at last.
But when Enoch's wife becomes pregnant and it looks like Thunder's owner might be found, Tom's wonderful new world is turned upside down. Will the Murrays still want Tom? And will Tom be forced to give up his beloved Thunder?

Reading Group Guide

Tom Campbell, a thirteen-year-old orphan, travels to Back o'the Moon Island to live with Enoch and Fiona Murray in 1929. After he rescues a young Newfoundland dog, Thunder, during a storm, his life seems nearly perfect until trouble with his neighbors and the impending birth of a new baby threaten to change everything.
Orphans; Dogs; Family life; Newfoundland and Labrador
• Why did Enoch and Fiona like living on this remote island? What did it offer that they couldn't find in town?
• Why would Enoch want to be in partnership with Amos? Why was it difficult? How would you deal with a partner like Amos?
• What is "jannie talk"? Why do Mummers use it? What is "cheek music"? What is it used for?
• Why did the earthquake cause a tidal wave? How might Thunder have sensed it before the people?
• This is a fictional story of a dog who is a hero. Find some examples of real animal heroes and report on the ways dogs can help people. How can a dog's senses make a difference in detecting an emergency or saving a person?
• Look at an atlas of Canada and look for small islands like Back o'the Moon. Where are some real islands? What can you discover about the people that live there?
• Research real earthquakes and tsunamis and the current attempts to create early warning systems.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Arlene Wiler
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Joan Hiatt Harlow is the author of several popular historical novels including Secret of the Night PoniesShadows on the SeaMidnight RiderStar in the StormJoshua’s Song, Thunder from the Sea, and Breaker Boy. Ms. Harlow lives in Venice, Florida. For more information, visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (May 11, 2010)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439107416
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 700L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"The episodic chapters are fast paced and the narrative creates a real sense of time and place....Dog lovers, and readers yearning for a cozy tale will enjoy curling up with this story."

– School Library Journal

"Nonstop adventure for dog lovers."

– Booklist

Awards and Honors

  • Iowa Children's Choice Award Nominee
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Reading List (KS)
  • Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title
  • Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Master List (IL)
  • Volunteer State Book Award Nominee (TN)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Crown Award Nominee (TX)
  • Mark Twain Award Final Nominee (MO)
  • Nutmeg Book Award (CT)

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More books from this author: Joan Hiatt Harlow