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Waterless Mountain

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,237 ratings  ·  171 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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Katherine I don't feel like it has racial stereo types that are inappropriate, even for the time it was written which is the early 1930's. I thought it was a be…moreI don't feel like it has racial stereo types that are inappropriate, even for the time it was written which is the early 1930's. I thought it was a beautifully written story that helped me understand Native American culture better. I feel like now I have a greater understanding for how they view the world around them, what they feel is sacred, and how they lived their lives. I think the only reason it would be hard for teenagers to read is that it is not very action packed and has a slow beginning. That being said, as far as appropriateness goes, I think it is very appropriate. (less)

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Lizzy (Bent Bookworm)
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2017
~*Full review notes on The Bent Bookworm!*~

My first issue: I feel like that description or blurb is very misleading. “A living record of the Navajo way of life before the influence of the white man.” Um…I don’t see how that is accurate at ALL, when several of the main incidents of the story involve a slightly condescending but kind white man who runs a general store near the Navajo family. So what exactly is that blurb about? Hmmmm? Anyway.

This book was first published in 1931. The style of writ
Mar 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: newbery
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
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivonne by: Goodreads
Waterless Mountain follows Younger Brother, the middle of three children in a Navajo family — a boy who got to be 8 years old without ever having seen a white man or a chair — as he grows into adulthood. Younger Brother tends the sheep for his family, but he lives in a magical world — literally, in his case. He believes in the old Navajo religion and sees good fortune as a gift from the gods and nature. Laura Adams Armer’s book serves as a window into a world that existed for centuries in the Am ...more
I was reading this, got bored, DNF'd it, then said to myself, "Self, you will not DNF this book just because it's slow and boring. It's short, it's simple: you can get through it." So I did.

This book is organized in short stories from the life of Younger Brother, a Navaho Indian boy. Each chapter stands on its own, sharing day-to-day glimpses into the life of the Navaho, sprinkled liberally with folklore and origin myths. Each vignette is written in a straightforward manner, with very little to
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
Really lovely story about a Navajo boy who is going to be a medicine man. Includes Navajo stories, ceremonies, and traditions as seen through the eyes of the boy, Younger Brother. This book takes place at a time when the Navajo way of life is about to collide with new technologies - they still walk or ride their horses everywhere, but some neighbors have cars. The boy is taken for a ride in an airplane and on a train, and he and his family go to a movie theater as well.

Perhaps a little too pater
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery
This is a gentle coming-of-age book about the Navaho way of life in the 1930’s.

Although written by a Caucasian woman, Waterless Mountain was lauded by the tribe itself for her authentic portrait of and respect for the Navaho people, their heritage, and their beliefs. Laura Adams Armer’s affection is evident as she writes about Younger Brother and the path he chooses to become a medicine man for his tribe. We meet him when he is eight years old, and follow his insights and responses to his vocat
Benji Martin
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, newbery, ya
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
Lynette Caulkins
I really enjoyed this older Newbery! Rounding up from a 4.5. Armer has given us a very nice infusion of Navajo culture, and surprisingly for a 1931 book, the tone is not rampantly patronizing. You won't get swashbuckling adventure with this book, but you do get a relaxing read that follows a thoughtful young Navajo boy across a few years and reveals to you the backstory of Navajo beliefs and cultural heritage as he learns and tells the stories of his people. You get glimpses of early-20th centur ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Newbery Completists
Younger Brother, called Little Singer by his medicine-man Uncle, was an unusual child, attuned from a young age to the deeper realities of the world around him, and observant of all its beauty, both natural and man-made. Marked out as a future medicine man himself, and tutored by Uncle in the traditional songs and beliefs of his people, the young Navajo boy came of age in the small circle of his loving family, living with them under the great Waterless Mountain. The rhythms of their daily life - ...more
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery
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
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sandra by: Mrs. Hartman
This book and I have a long history. I was an advanced reader, and my teacher for both first and second grades, Mrs. Hartman, really wanted me to read this book. She loved it. The problem was that even though I read at a high enough level, I was still a first- or second-grader and this book seemed really boring.

This book is more of a series of events than one with a definite plot. A few of the incidents are somewhat exciting, but it describes the life of a young Navaho boy in Arizona at a time w
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading waterless mountain by Laura Adams Armer. I found it to be a relatively quick and easy read. The reader is able to follow the life of Younger brother and is journey into adulthood. We are in his head straight from his early childhood and are able to learn his way of thinking. I find that this book may be very inspiring and thought provoking to young readers, as they get to experience Younger Brother’s growth and maturation over the years. Adolescent readers are given the opportu ...more
Natalie Brunner
Mar 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
I went into this book with fairly high hopes after reading Winter in the Blood (another book focused on Native American culture). I was disappointed in Winter in the Blood's negative portrayal of Native Americans and was happy to read that Armer described their culture and character in a more positive light. However, that was one of the only things I liked about this book. Waterless Mountain was very slow and boring to me. I also found it difficult to understand the deeper meanings of many of th ...more
Hugh Kinsey
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading Waterless Mountain. It was a bit slow, and a bit long and longwinded, but it was nevertheless a relaxing read. The author paints such vivid images I can imagine them with immense detail in my mind. At points when the weather is described, I can feel it. This is also a much more, in my opinion, honest description of Native American life. Compared to the last book about natives we read, "Winter in the Blood," this is a much more positive and natural view of natives. The interplay ...more
Nov 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I have to admit that I judged this book by its cover. I did not think that it was going to be interesting, but it was. It was the journey of a Navajo boy growing up in about 1930. He lives with his family and honors and respects the traditions of his people however their land is getting intruded upon by white people and he travels between the two worlds.

I liked the style and all the tradition and the way that the boy saw the world. I think that this book is really enjoyable.
Phil Jensen
The first chunk of this book was really painful to get through. It read like summaries of legends instead of the legends themselves. It was just a lot of thumbnail descriptions of things. At one point, I accidentally read a chapter twice without realizing it.

After Younger Brother starts his journey to the sea, the book gets more interesting.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newberry-honor
A beautiful story of an unrushed childhood. A lovely reminder to mothers to allow their children to grow up to be what they are supposed to be. Also a reminder that quietness, alone time, and responsibility are important at all stages of development. I loved how “Grandfather “ was so respectful and consequently respected. I only wish there really was such a man.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
As always, it's weird to read (and judge) a book about a culture written by someone outside of that cultural group. But I liked this, and thought it was respectful, especially considering the time it was written (the 1930s). The Foreward talks about the spiritual aspects in the book apologetically, but I think they were the best part.
Magdalene Monahan
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I think that Waterless Mountain was a much easier read than books that we have read on Native Americans over the course of this semester. I like that the hot topic issue was not based on a clash between Native Americans and white settlers or the white man but rather it was more centered around Native American life. Armer acknowledges such social issues, but her primary purpose was to focus on Navajo culture. She shows Younger Brother and his people pursing a traditional way of life as the twent ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Waterless Mountain is a sweet and genuine book that creates a sense of innocence, discovery, and curiosity of the world around the main character of Younger Brother, a young Navajo boy who aspires to become a Medicine Man like Uncle. This warm and light tale of the journey of learning of Younger Brother’s vocation, is beautifully written through the use of extensive personification and imagery. The author, Laura Adams Armer, creates a bold, and clear image of the world that Younger Brother sees. ...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
Cory Douglas
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Although Native American literature is not a genre that I generally choose, I did enjoy the ambiance of this book. I found Younger Brother to be an enjoyable character, and I appreciated his gentle perspective. I also enjoyed the way in which each relationship that he formed within the book was meaningful; each character had an important role and helped Younger Brother to grow more as a medicine man and as a person. I found it interesting that even the weather and animals were personified as wel ...more
Allison Pope
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Waterless Mountain has proven itself to be an overall average novel that has very little about it to dislike, but also very little to praise. The book is a coming of age story about Younger Brother, a young man who is part of the Navajo tribe, growing up and discovering himself, what he wants in life, and the world around him. At the beginning of the novel he is very young and naïve just starting his journey into adulthood and by the end he has lived more of a life, has seen things, and knows hi ...more
Melissa Carr
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Waterless Mountain was a decent book to read. Better than the previous Indian novel, Winter in the blood, and better suited for a school setting. Laura Adams Armer does a very well job to thoughtfully take you through the journey of an Indian boy, younger brother, as he becomes a medicine man. Armer structures her writing with use of sensory details as she describes objects through out Younger Brothers Journey. Starting with his cave knick knacks you feel like you are there along with him as he ...more
Matthew Myers
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Waterless Mountain is a great book that portrays the spirituality and self-intelligence of the Navaho Tribe. I enjoyed reading about Younger Brother’s relationship with nature and how he grew throughout the story. At first, Younger Brother was boy who collected treasures and stored them in a cave that no one else knew about. After a while, the protagonist and Uncle became very close. Eventually Younger Brother revealed his treasures to him. As the story progressed, Younger Brother grew closer to ...more
Chris Schlee
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Waterless Mountain" written by Laura Adams Armer, is the fictional story of Younger Brother. The story is based on the growing up of Younger Brother coming to life as a medicine man to his people. What I really appreciated about this story was the great insight into Navajo culture. Throughout the book Younger Brother enchants the readers with how Navajo beliefs and customs are connected to the world. Everything has a connection to the next and it is true understanding how disconnected the world ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I found Waterless Mountain a slow moving read. While I enjoyed the Navajo legends, I was often bored and had a difficult time maintaining attention. I often had to build myself up and prepare myself before reading the stories, and I worried that I would not finish all of them. I would caution those who choose to read Waterless Mountain to read when the mind is bright and alert.
The story follows Younger Brother on his quest to become a medicine man like his Uncle. Along his journey, Younger Brot
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Waterless Mountain” tells the story of a young Navajo boy’s journey to become a medicine man. Younger Brother shepherds his mother’s flock of sheep when he is a young boy, but he often has visions and speaks to the Pack Rat. His uncle, a medicine man, recognizes the gifts that the young boy has and begins training Younger Brother to help become a medicine man as well. Younger Brother goes on several journeys as he grows up and interacts in many ways with the American culture. These interactions ...more
Amanda Zimmerman
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The novel "Waterless Mountain" by Laura Adams Armer was overall a better read then my previous endeavors with a Native American cultured novel. I still chose not to given this novel all five stars because I feel it was lacking adventure in the story line. The book was separated into short chapters with the telling of Navajo stories, traditions and celebrations that helped to keep the story moving, but was overall lacking adventure most readers enjoy about a good book. This novel almost felt more ...more
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Laura Adams Armer (January 12, 1874–March 16, 1963) was an American artist and writer. In 1932, her novel Waterless Mountain won the Newbery Medal. She was also an early photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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