Miz Lizzie's Reviews > Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac
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's review
Apr 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: history, japan, native-american, realistic-fiction, religion, secrets, usa, world-war-ii, young-adult, arizona, southwest
Read from April 14 to 16, 2011

The 2011 OneBookAZ for Kids is Joseph Bruchac's Code Talker about the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. Though the main character and narrator is fictional, the novel is based on extensive research, including oral histories with the code talkers and their families. As a result, it does sometimes read more like oral history than a novel. That is not a defect; the realistic underpinnings may make the tale less of a page-turner but they do not dampen the intrinsic drama of the actual events. One of the best things about the novel is that it is completely grounded in Navajo culture and language. Ned Begay's story starts the day he is taken to Indian Boarding School where he is shorn of his Indian identity and punished for speaking the Navajo language. The irony that the United States wins the war in the Pacific in part through the use of the very language and culture it sought to eradicate to create a code the Japanese could not break is not lost here. While the main character is fictional, all of the other Navajo code talkers mentioned are real and pieces of their stories are incorporated into the text. An invaluable book for the detail of the struggle in the Pacific during World War II. Bruchac not only illuminates the little known history of the code talkers but gives a balanced and compassionate overview of the Japanese situation before and during the war and reveals the struggles of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands during the war. He also celebrates the continuing perseverance and value of indigenous culture and language in the United States despite all we as a people and government have done to try to stamp them out.

Book Pairings: Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood about the Pacific Islanders during World War II would be a great companion to this book. Books about contemporary Native American teens like Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would be a great follow-up as well. Joseph Bruchac also provides a selected bibliography for non-fiction books about code talkers, World War II, and Navajos.
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