Jen's Reviews > Waterless Mountain

Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer
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Feb 05, 11

bookshelves: kids, newbery, 2009

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 expression of many things which they did not expect white people to understand". Armer, apparently, had been living near and enjoying friendship with a group of Navaho people for some time before writing this book. I would venture to say that, unlike some of the other works that bear the gold medal because they were written about another culture, this book reflects not just an interest in another culture, but a love and admiration for it.

The characters in this are flesh-and-blood authentic -- even the minor ones. The landscape is rich and beautiful. You can tell that Armer was a visual artist before she started writing. Unlike her Newbery predecessor, Armer weaves Navaho stories and legend seamlessly into the plot of her book. They rise to the surface spontaneously, in much the same way as stories are told among friends and family. Like one of the other project members, I found myself identifying with some of the thought patterns and ideas that Younger Brother (the main character) expresses.

My only complaint would be that the story seems to lose steam about two-thirds of the way through. Up until that point, Armer has been telling a coming-of-age story complete with journeys and trials and the wisdom that comes from both. But then it all just sort of fizzles out, like that high school English paper you wrapped up in a few harried sentences after your teacher called out "time's up". The last part of the book is by no means unreadable or even dull, it just lacks the movement that was present in the first part of the narrative.

All around good read, though.
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