Waterless Mountain
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Waterless Mountain

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  547 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Winner of the 1931 Newbery Medal, this is an authentic novel about an eight-year-old Navaho boy's training as a medicine man. This deeply moving and accurate account of one young Navaho's childhood and spiritual journey is filled with wonder and respect for the natural world--a living record of the Navaho way of life before the influence of the white man.
Hardcover, 212 pages
Published October 12th 1993 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 1931)
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The Giver by Lois LowryHoles by Louis SacharA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Most Deserving Newbery
87th out of 93 books — 2,098 voters
The Giver by Lois LowryA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleHoles by Louis SacharNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Newbery Medal Winner Books
93rd out of 93 books — 247 voters


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Community Reviews

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Crystal
1932 Newbery Award Winner

Really not great. I found it boring and the writing stilted. It seemed she was trying to write in "Indian speak" or something. I also found it covertly racist. It wasn't in your face, but that is almost worse because then people think that they are actually getting a true picture.

Here are some of the things that were a problem. You will see that white people are fantastic if you read this. Page 7, "Younger Brother thought he had never seen so kind a face and he knew rig...more
Matt
I don't know. There's some interesting insight into Navajo life and culture. Two big problems, though:
1. The book is slow-moving. And, for me, not so much in a "pleasant journey" kind of way like Criss Cross or Walk Two Moons or even The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Just not that much happens.
2. Much bigger problem: The book, while in some ways sensitive to Navajo culture, really is fawning in its love of white culture. The two white characters (and one especially) are superior beings who grace the...more
Benji Martin
If you're reading the Newbery Winners through from the beginning, not even a decade in you've already visited South America in Tales From SIlver Lands, China in Shen of the Sea, India in Gay Neck, Poland in Trumpeter of Krakow, Japan in The Cat Who Went to Heaven and now, in The Waterless Mountain, you're visiting the Navaho tribes in the Western U.S. Despite, the racism in many of the novels, it does seem like the librarians on the committees in the 20's and the 30's were being proactive about...more
Wendy
I was prepared to hate this and find it dull, but I didn't really. This story of a Navajo boy learning to become a spiritual leader is fairly engaging, and I enjoyed the boy's character and his interactions with white people, which are usually pretty funny (and sometimes sad). It has the racial and cultural problems you might expect of a Navajo book written by a white person, but they aren't as bad as I anticipated. I can let some of those go as being "it was a different time"ish, but what I can...more
Bunnyjadwiga
Let's start with what's wrong with this example of 1930s "multiculturalism." I would never share this book with a child, because the white characters and the white narrator are patronizing of Navajo culture, though they are a lot less patronizing of that culture than the vast majority of writing in the twentieth century. The idea that Indian traders and the white police were entirely benevolent in that time and place is another red flag. Patronizing comments like "all Indians should do this and...more
Debbie
Dec 31, 2013 Debbie added it
81 1932: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Longmans) #81

9/1/2013 212 pages

This is a story of a native American boy living in the Southwest. The time period is probably about the time of the book since the family lived in the old fashion, yet there are mentions of white men with cars and the use of a helicopter. The boy is perceptive and is trained to become a wise man of his people. The books relates many legends.

"Younger Brother still watched the Big Man's face and deep in his heart he...more
Carl Nelson
1932 Newbery Medal recipient.

The good: a look at Navajo life and culture, with emphasis on their respect for and harmony with the land around them. The insider's view that Ms. Armer gives is fascinating, and her characters are vital and interesting.

The bad: nothing much happens. The chapters could easily be read as separate folk tales, and the book lacks a compelling central conflict. (I really can't imagine many children reading this; while not tedious, neither is it exciting.) There's also a b...more
Gale
"Seeking the Heart of Things”

This 1932 Newbery Award winner is somewhat of a sleeper--compared with most YA books which feature an active plotline. We follow the story of Younger Brother, a 7-year-old Navajo boy, until he becomes a teenaged youth. Set in the dry and desolate region of the American Southwest WATERLESS MOUNTAIN presents the culture clash of white civilization with the peaceable Navajo nation. Younger Brother (sometimes called Little Singer by a few close relatives) is awed by th...more
Antof9
yay! Things are looking up in the Newbery world. This is the representative from 1932, and I've now read a couple in a row that I felt better than "meh" about :)

This one had a little of the "Tales from Silver Lands" feel, but had understandable mysticism, if you will, as opposed to myths and legends I couldn't even begin to wrap my brain around. It's still rather dated because of when it was written, but I wouldn't be afraid to let one of my nephews read it for fear I'd have to explain outright...more
Miz Lizzie
As a recent transplant to Arizona and having studied the traditional oral histories of indigenous peoples of North America (though not the Navajo specifically), I was quite interested in reading Waterless Mountain. It is also one of the few Newbery books from these two decades that I had no memory of ever having read or had read to me.

It is the story of Younger Brother who is following the path of a medicine man of his people. Younger Brother is eight years old when the story starts and he ages...more
Jen
In the forward of my copy of the book, which (incidentally) I bought used online for about $1 and which used to belong to the Northside Christian School Library, but now belongs to me and has a mean, red "DISCARD" stamp on the inside flyleaf beneath the date stamps proving that 6 people checked this book out between November 24, 1986 and November 8, 1989, Oliver LeFarge says Armer's paintings (she was an artist before an author) were viewed by the Navaho has having "an unusual insight and an exp...more
Jane G Meyer
Gentle. This book embodies that word. In its themes, the characters, the language and the pace--probably everything except the setting, which sits in Navajo country where the weather can bring surprises...

I loved this book, but know that a modern-day reader will struggle with the text. The pace is slow, there is little action, and the characters may be a bit idealized. I think a middle grade child, unless they are a deep thinker and feeler, would doze often while trying to get through the chapte...more
Susan
I think this book would be difficult for the average school child to enjoy. The language is simple enough, chapters plenty short, but the action is quite slow. Far too slow to engage today's youth who've been suckled on stories steeped in terror, horror, and/or fear. The book is a rather impressive glimpse into a culture on the verge of death or at least assimilation. Armer writes about a small Navaho community just after the turn of the last century. She has an anthropologist's interest in the...more
Melinda
This was new territory for me, a gentle, sympathetic look inside Navajo society of almost a century ago, with a bit of contrast with white man's points of view. I liked that it was interesting and sympathetic to Navajo beliefs, especially spiritualism. I did not understand nor agree with all of it, and of course no group or individual lives their beliefs perfectly. But I can see some value in it.
Jessica
Quiet, meditative story, heavy on setting and character but very light on plot. I found it a peaceful, pleasant read, if I switched my cultural appropriation filter off. Yes, there are a thousand ways one can criticize this book, but for 1931, it was quite advanced.

Would I recommend it to a modern youth? No! Did I personally enjoy the descriptions of the West? Absolutely.
Mary Rank
This was the 1932 Newbery Winner. Like many older Newbery winners this book is episodic in it's delivery. It is the slice of life stories about Younger Brother a coming of age Navaho medicine man back in the early 1900's. I felt that the writing style was a bit too flowery and dreamlike and didn't have enough grit to make it realistic. But I do appreciate a window into other cultures and this might inspire me to read an adult novel on the same topic.
Sandi Banks
This was a Newbery award winning book from 1932. It gave a good description of Navaho traditional tribal life through the coming of age a Navaho boy. Written 80 years ago it was dated in its depiction of native American's culture. It moved slowly through the first half of the book and later the pace quickened when " Younger son" left home on his journey of self discovery.

Ensiform
This Newbery winner is an episodic novel of the Navajo people. A boy called Younger Brother, party inspired by his Uncle, a shaman, leaves his family and goes west, following the Turquoise Woman who went west to marry the sun. Along the way, he rescues a white boy, routs some horse thieves, and flies in a plane with “Grandfather,” the white trader who knows and loves the Navajo.

It’s all told in a very muted style, almost entirely from the Navajo point of view, with poetic phrases like “my heart...more
Maria
Well, that wasn't half bad!

The story of Younger Son was woven nicely with traditional tales of the Navajo. As a child, he learns that he has a special affinity with nature. His Uncle is a Medicine Man, and begins to train him as a future medicine man for their people.

I'm not an expert, but based on the fact that the author spent real time with the Navajo, painting their celebrations and learning their tales, I'm thinking it was a fairly accurate representation.

The writing style was simple, yet...more
Sandy D.
This is an older Newbery winner (published in 1931), but it wasn't as dated as you might expect (though the term "roadster" did leap out at me). It's very stream-of-consciousness, the coming of age story of a Navajo boy who feels drawn to the big questions in life, and is following in his uncle's footsteps, becoming a ceremonial singer ("medicine man"). I did a longish review of it over at the Newbery Project.

As I said in the review, I was surprised how much I liked it. I thought it was going to...more
Ron
Another Newbery Medal winner - This is the story of a Navajo boy as he grows to be a young adult. The story doesn't have a lot of action, but does have a lot of stories around Navajo legends.
Penn
Why don't we remember when this book was published, and just appreciate what it has to offer. The author was interested in the Navajo folklore and was able to share it through a nice story. The illustrations were made by the author and her husband, several of which are beautiful. Ten more Newbery winners to read.
Andrea
Aug 02, 2011 Andrea added it
I have never read such a touching, real, draw-you-right-into-it tale of Native American life as Waterless Mountain. And with hubby's interest in Native American culture, believe me, I've read quite a few. Reading about the life of Younger Brother and his family was a wonderful experience that I had to savor. I read this book slowly, taking my time to visualize the people and places, looking at the wonderful illustrations, hearing the characters' voices in my head. Younger Brother's wisdom and, l...more
Kristie Stauffer
I was told by a librarian that this book is out of print because it is very demeaning to the Navajo people. I did not find it demeaning at all – with the exception of one sentence when a white person called them savages. I found it beautiful and even spiritual as I shared the reverence and respect of all things that the Navajos believed. How sad that a book that simply explains the beliefs of a people, especially in such a beautiful way, is censored. I assume that it is because the legends and s...more
Lorna
1932 Newbery Medal

I thought this was okay, and definitely went in the better than "Shen of the Sea" and "The Dark Frigate" category. This is a collection of stories about Little Brother, a Navajo, as he comes of age and becomes acquainted with the skills needed to be a medicine man. Many chapters are him seeing something that reminds him of a legend or story that he's been told. I much preferred the adventures that he had personally (like dealing with horse thieves) than the legends themselves....more
Ruth E.
1932 Newbery winner - Author/IllustratorLaura Adams Armer/ Sidney Armer & Laura Adams Armer - The book is about a young Navaho boy called Young Brother and his jouney to manhood and his life with the medicine man Uncle and the trading post man Big Man. The Navaho culture is very much a part of this book and one gains a better understanding of the Navaho culture through Young Brother. The illustrations are at the beginning of each chapter the first letter is done with Navaho art. The other il...more
Kaela
This book was super adorable. The writing style was so simple it seemed almost infantile, until I realised that that was the author's intention. The book is set up in the point of view of Younger Brother, a Native American boy who has a gift for seeing things deeper than already so done by his clan. It was an eye-opener, I truly did not know that for just about everything they have an entire legend to explain it, and how everything has to be done so precisely according to tradition and ceremonia...more
Sandra
Dec 20, 2013 Sandra rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sandra by: Mrs. Hartman
Although I know it isn't really fair, my rating is based on my childhood reading of this novel. I was a young reader -- in first or second grade, because I remember the teacher -- and I was an advanced reader, so my teacher, Mrs. Hartman, tried to get me to read this book. Perhaps my reading comprehension was sufficient, but I thought it was the most boring thing I'd ever read!

So I need to re-read it and see if I like it now. (My policy is to give books that I've read but don't remember and want...more
Jennifer
Yes, the penultimate Newbery title. The way to win the Newbery is to tell the story of a culture that is new to your audience. This was another nice little book. And I learned something about sand painting. I also liked that it didn't take place in the distant past but at a time when the old traditions are confronted with the modern age. So in this Native American tale, there are cars and planes. This is a solid Newbery winner but I am not gushing.

The only thing I didn't like about this one was...more
Michael Culbertson
I'm sure this is an excellent example of Navaho storytelling--in that respect, I'd probably give it 4 stars. But, I guess the Navaho way of telling stories simply doesn't grab me. Characters are more like archetypes--stylized representations of people in the roles they occupy. I think I prefer more-detailed characterizations of individuals, not roles, and plots with a bit more complexity or human struggle. Waterless Mountain is more of a series of vignettes around one boy than a single story. So...more
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Children's Books: Winner & Honors from 1932 5 66 Dec 19, 2013 09:33PM  
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  • Tales From Silver Lands
  • Daniel Boone
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  • Shen of The Sea: Chinese Stories for Children
  • The Dark Frigate
  • ...And Now Miguel
  • The White Stag
  • Roller Skates
  • Miss Hickory
  • The Story of Mankind
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  • Secret of the Andes
  • A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
  • Shadow Of A Bull
  • M.C. Higgins, the Great
  • Smoky the Cow Horse
  • The Cat Who Went to Heaven
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“He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.” 12 likes
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