Book Talk: Code Talker

Posted May 16, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: Code TalkerCode Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines in World War Two by Joseph Bruchac
Pages: 231

Throughout World War II, in the conflict fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending messages back and forth in an unbreakable code that used their native language. They braved some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with their code, they saved countless American lives. Yet their story remained classified for more than twenty years.
But now Joseph Bruchac brings their stories to life for young adults through the riveting fictional tale of Ned Begay, a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy who becomes a code talker. His grueling journey is eye-opening and inspiring. This deeply affecting novel honors all of those young men, like Ned, who dared to serve, and it honors the culture and language of the Navajo Indians.

Also by this author: Rose Eagle

Code Talker is almost more of a creative nonfiction book than it is a YA novel, which might help you going into it because it means you can adjust your expectations to what the book delivers on. Personally, I love learning about history this way, so the book and I were a terrific fit. It’s part of why I picked it up, actually, and I wasn’t disappointed.

No, I lie. I was minorly disappointed because I thought the book was going to be about the first code talkers who developed the code and… it’s not. It’s about the people who came after them. It’s a raw and heartbreaking story in many ways. It doesn’t flinch away from discussing and showing the way that the US government has treated Native Americans, specifically the Navajo, and the violence inherent in that treatment. If forced cultural assimilation and/or cultural genocide is a trigger for you, be warned that the first chapters of the book include it as the main character is sent off to a western boarding school.)

The whole book is told as a first person recollection of what code talkers did in the second world war in general, mingled with smaller personal anecdotes of what the war was like. It doesn’t gloss over the horrors of war, but it doesn’t go into graphic detail either and is quite accessible.

I’d heard of code talkers before, but, especially being European, knew virtually nothing about them. This book is a great introduction to YA readers and comes with a bibliography for anyone who wants to know more. I’d happily recommend it to people and can see it be exceedingly useful in a classroom setting whether in English classes or as additional material for a history class.

 

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