Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plot Summary:
Ned Begay has not always be known as Ned. In fact, his name, in Navajo, has always been Kii Yazhi until he was shipped off to the mission to be educated by the White Man. Not only did he learn English, he was told it was wrong to be Navajo and was given the name of Ned Begay, his hair cut, and clothes taken away. Although he felt empty and naked, he made a promise to himself that he would never forget his native language even if the White Man tried to beat it out of him. Not only did Ned excel in school, he actually went off  high school by working hard and keeping his mouth shut. He loved to read and he loved to speak Navajo with his friends, away from his teachers, and everything was going quite well until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. At the age of sixteen, Ned joined the US Marines and is assigned a top secret assignment--he became one of the first Navajo Code Talkers who would not only decipher American messages during battle, but send messages in the line of duty in Navajo. All his life he thought the Navajo would continued to be ignored; however, with the country at war, the Navajo are the nation's most treasured asset.

Critical Evaluation:
Told as a memoir, Ben Negay is telling his grandchildren about his time as a US Marine Code Talker. Although Ben may be addressing his own grandchildren, readers will believe that he is actually speaking to anyone who wants to hear about his story. Not only is this story personal, it incredibly moving where readers are enveloped in the story. Moreover, when Ben talks about his time in the Pacific, the battle scenes are so well written that all we can imagine what it is like fighting of bullets and bombs while running in the boiling jungle. Another amazing aspect of this story is the relationships that Ben establishes, especially with those who are assigned as his security force; soldiers were actually give orders to protect the Navajo code talkers not only from the enemy but from friendly fire (one code talker was shot by a friendly because he looked Japanese). One detail that readers will also experience is how difficult waiting is during war time. Ben makes it very clear that this is the hardest thing he had ever have to go through and, teenagers being teenagers, patience is not one of their virtues.

Information about the Author:
For Joseph Bruchac, he knows the value of "Home Sweet Home." In fact, he currently lives in the same house his grandparents raised him in the Adirondack mountain foothills town of Greenfield Center, New York. Although he may not be a full-blooded Native American, the part that became his passion. According to his website, Bruchac has an amazing educational background and a wealth of experience in this field as well: "[Bruchac] holds a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. in Literature and Creative Writing from Syracuse and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Union Institute of Ohio. His work as a educator includes eight years of directing a college program for Skidmore College inside a maximum security prison. With his wife, Carol, he is the founder and Co-Director of the Greenfield Review Literary Center and The Greenfield Review Press" (para. 2). Bruchac has written so much that, currently, he has managed to edit a great number of poetry anthologies, authored more than seventy adult and children's books,received recognition from well known endowments and fellowships. For example, "[h]is honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Cherokee Nation Prose Award, the Knickerbocker Award, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children's Literature and both the 1998 Writer of the Year Award and the 1998 Storyteller of the Year Award from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. In 1999, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas" (para.3). Not only is he well-known for his remarkable Native American stories, he is a critically acclaimed storyteller who goes around the country telling his stories.

Teen Historical Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Code Talker:

Awards & Recognition: 
  • ALA Notable Children's Books: 2006
  • Arizona: Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominees: 2008
  • Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2006
  • Georgia: Georgia Peach Award Nominees: 2007
  • Illinois: Rebecca Caudill Award Nominees: 2008
  • Kentucky: Bluegrass Award Nominees: 2007
  • Maryland: Black-eyed Susan Award Nominees: 2007
  • Minnesota: Maud Hart Lovelace Award Nominees: 2008
  • Oklahoma: Sequoyah Award Nominees: 2008
  • Virginia: Readers' Choice Award Nominees: 2008
  • West Virginia: Children's Book Award Nominees: 2008

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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