o create Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two (2006 ALA Best Book for Young Adults), it is said that author Joseph Bruchac drew upon his own Native American heritage and interest in language preservation, as well as his fascination with the brave Navajo code talkers. This historical fiction novel plays homage to the heroics of the Navajo men in the armed forces during WWII and their development in using their native language to create an unbreakable code that aided the US during this gruesome time in our history.
Told through first person narrative by protagonist Ned Begay, Ned tells his story to his grandchildren of being a young Navajo in a “white man’s world” and later using his native Navajo language as a Marine code talker.
“You cannot weave a rug before you set up the loom. So I will go back to the beginning, pound the posts in the ground, and build a frame. I will start where my own story of words and warriors begins.”
Readers will truly feel as if they are the grandchildren being told the memories; the slow, methodical stride and melodic measure that puts readers into a somewhat pensive state, classify this narration as a “Sunday drive” book. Although Ned is an interesting character, the smithereens of personal portrayals readers are given of him are sometimes overshadowed by the multitude of facts that at times do not find a seamless fold in weaving the fact and fiction together.
An ironic contemplative look at the harshness the Navajo people suffered when others tried to make them forget their language, the paradox is that it is this language that helped save the same American people who were so intent on disregarding the Navajo language as uncivilized, uncultured, and useless. The code talkers were also ordered for many years to keep their duties classified and were not honored properly in their noble contribution till many years later.
“But more important than any praise was the fact that we could tell our children and our grandchildren about the way our sacred language helped this country.”
If you are looking for a nice “Sunday read” give this book a try. It may peak your interest in the historical non-fiction accounts of this subject, encouraging you to read the books listed at the end of this novel by the author.
Profanity/Language: 4 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: Character briefly recalls the painful cries of a wounded soldier; extended scene (about 1 page) somewhat detailed report of violent discriminatory actions taken against a group of people; character briefly recounts school children being beaten with a stick by a teacher; brief mention of attack on Pearl Harbor; character briefly tells another character about being shot at by enemy fire; brief repeating of a group of people being enslaved, beaten, or killed; character briefly recalls another character’s torturous treatment by enemy; brief scene character is shot and wounded by enemy fire; brief mention of suicide attacks; report of character dying from friendly fire; character briefly relates being struck with a bayonet; character reports being fired upon by the enemy and that hundreds of comrades died that day; extended scene (about 2 pages) in which character relates how civilian natives would take their own lives in fear of being captured by the enemy; brief mention of locals being shot at or put into concentration camps if they did not agree to work for the enemy; extended scene (about 1 page) character recalls being attacked with guns and fighting in hand to hand combat, death mentioned; extended scene (about 1 page) character is shot and wounded, blood mentioned; recollection of kamikaze attacks; report of casualties at the battle of Iwo Jima; extended scene (about 1 page) character is fired upon by enemy, description of seeing and hearing comrades being shot; non-descriptive brief scene of enemy soldiers attacking and dying; characters recalls friends who were killed in action; extended scene (about 1 page) descriptive bloody recollection of character trying to help his/her wounded friend; brief report of kamikaze attacks; extended scene (about 1 page) report of suicides and other casualties of war; brief depiction of the atomic bombs devastating effects.
Mature Subject Matter:
War, death(s), prejudice, racial discrimination.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A few (around 5) brief mentions of characters partaking in alcoholic beverages; one mention of character smoking.