Welcome

I created this blog for the Childern's and Young Adult's Literature class that I am taking through Texas Women's University. In this blog, I will share reflections of the literature I am reading in this class.

Well, now it is 2013. I am taking Multicultural Literature as my next-to-the last class for my degree. It has been a lengthy journey as I have been taking classes part-time while teaching, but I have learned so much. As part of this class, I will be adding to my neglected blog. Join me for the reading & reviewing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: THE PIRATE OF KINDERGARTEN by George Ella Lyon.

1. BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Lyon, George Ella. 2010. The Pirate of Kindergarten. Ill. by Lynne Avril. New York: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books. ISBN-10: 1416950249

2. PLOT SUMMARY


Ginny is a kindergartner who loves books and story time. The only problem is that she sees two of everything; the chairs in the reading circle, the words on the pages, and everything else. Ginny is not sure which chairs are real and which ones are not, so she sometimes runs into them. She sees all of the words written on the page twice, and even though her teacher tells her to just read them once, Ginny reads them twice just to be sure. When the vision screening is conducted for the school year, the school nurse discovers that Ginny has double vision. Ginny’s mother took her to the eye doctor, who prescribed glasses, exercises and a special patch to wear to fix her double vision. Thus, Ginny becomes the “pirate of kindergarten” with her eye patch. Now Ginny sees one of everything just like the other kids, and she can “read, read, read.”


3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS

George Ella Lyon used the format of a picture book to create this fictional story about a little girl with vision problems. In a way which kindergartners will be able to understand, he explained the difficulties that Ginny had and explored her feelings about being different from the other kids. Lyon has created a character who enjoys school, “Ginny loved Reading Circle” but is frustrated by seeing two of everything, “She knew only half of them were real, but which ones?” The character of Ginny is easy for children to relate to, because she loves some aspects of school and is frustrated by other parts. The book is set in the kindergarten classroom, which is a familiar environment for young children. Children who might be afraid to say that they weren’t able to see clearly or don’t know how to describe what they are seeing will be encouraged by this book. Cultural authenticity is maintained in this story by the representation of characters from a variety of ethnicities with varying skin tones and hair color. The illustrations also show a male nurse which is not a stereotypical gender role. Another cultural marker is the way the student with a visual disability is portrayed; not as someone who is to be pitied, or is not as smart as the rest of the class, but as someone who is just as good as everyone else, but with a problem which needs special assistance. Lynne Avril’s colorful mixed media illustrations allow the reader to see the world through Ginny’s eyes. The illustrations add to the words of the text and bring it to life. The pictures show a brightly colored and lively classroom, while the text tells the story in short sentences which are easy for a young child to follow along with, making this an excellent book for a read-aloud.

Children who might be afraid of going to the eye doctor and having their eyes checked, or of getting glasses will be reassured when they read about Ginny getting her eyes checked and see the equipment the eye doctor uses. Ginny’s relief at being able to see just one of everything and her new ability to do the things all the other kids can do will also be encouraging. The kindergartners through 2nd graders for whom this book is recommended will enjoy reading or listening to this story.

4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
School Library Journal Review: Kindergarten-Grade 2—Ginny suffers from undiagnosed double vision, and seeing two of everything is causing her difficulties in school. On vision screening day, a nurse discovers the problem, and the prescribed eye patch gives Ginny a new identity—the pirate of kindergarten.”
Booklist Review: “Created with pastels, acrylics, and colored pencils, Avril’s bold and wonderfully vivid mixed-media illustrations sometimes portray the classroom through Ginny’s eyes, with overlapping images of chairs, books, and people, though they usually present an outside perspective. Based on Lyon’s own experience, the sensitively written story radiates empathy and good humor. Even children who have not experienced Ginny’s problem will understand her occasional frustration and find it intriguing that one person can literally see the world differently from another.”

5. CONNECTIONS

Other books about children with visual problems:
Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue. My Travelin’ Eye. ISBN-10: 0805081690
Shaw, Beth Kobliner. Jascob’s Eye Patch. ISBN-10: 1476737320

Other books by George Ella Lyon:

Lyon, George Ella. All the Water in the World. ISBN-10: 1416971300
Lyon, George Ella. Trucks Roll. ISBN-10: 1416924353
Lyon, George Ella. Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song. ISBN-10: 1933693967








 

 
 

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: ASK ME NO QUESTIONS by Marina Budhos.


1. BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Budhos, Marina. 2006. Ask Me No Questions. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9781416903512
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Fourteen-year-old Nadira is the narrator of this fictional story of a family of illegal aliens living in New York City. Nadira’s family came to America from Bangladesh several years ago and disappeared into the masses of New York, staying after their visa expired. As Nadira explained “everyone does it.” But after 9/11 things changed. All Muslim men over the age of 18 from certain areas were required to register and were subsequently either thrown in jail or kicked out of the country. When the book opens, they are fleeing to the Canadian border seeking asylum, because Nadira’s father says, “Why should we wait for them to kick us out. I want to live in a place where I can hold my head up.” After Nadira’s family is turned back at the Canadian border, her father is taken into custody awaiting trial, and her mother stays there to be with him. Nadira and her sister, Aisha, must go back to Queens alone, stay with their uncle’s family and pretend that nothing has happened. Everyone thinks that Aisha is the star of the family, “the smart one”, but it is Nadira who comes up with the solution to their problem and holds her family together.


 3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
 


Marina Budhos, an award winning author, did an excellent job writing this novel from the perspective of Nadira, the 14-year-old narrator who tells what it is like to be a Muslim teen living in America post 9/11. Ask Me No Questions highlights the issues facing the illegal aliens within the borders of the United States, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the institution of the patriot act. The characters are believable, and have multi-faceted personalities. Budhos also explores the tensions within the family structure. Nadira and her sister Aisha are opposites. Aisha is the one who always knows what to say in any situation, is popular at school, and gets straight A’s. Nadira, on the other hand, is more of a home-body. It is she who curls up at the feet of her elders and listens to their stories. The main character, Nadira grows significantly from the beginning to the end of the book. She grows from a girl who is shy, average, and doesn’t want to be noticed, to the one who holds her family together and has decided that the answer to their problem is to stop blending in, “sometimes you have to tell them who you are. What you really think. You have to make them see us.”
Cultural markers are apparent in this novel. Budhos draws attention to the issues of the large population of illegal students, “We’re not the only illegals at our school. We’re everywhere. You just have to look,” and Nadira sums up the unwritten policy at their school as “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” Her father has told her that “the most important thing … was not to stick out. Don’t let them see you.” Budhos makes the reader think about the scope of illegal immigration in the United States. She not only exposes the issues of new Muslim immigrants, she also talks specifically about those from Bangladesh such as Nadira’s family. One example of this is when Nadira gives a brief historical account of Bangladesh and its geographic location, and relates some of their family’s personal history.
The narrative discusses the religious practices of the Muslims such as Ali-Uncle who works at a discount electronics store, prays faithfully five times a day, and explains the Koran and Bengali literature at the local mosque. Nadira also refers to the feast of Ramadan and that it has been a long time since her father has pulled the prayer rug out of the closet. Gender roles and how they vary between their native Bangladesh and America are also referred to. The author contrasts the traditional male-female roles with modern ones. For instance, Nadira’s Uncle is upset that his wife has a job, and says that “I didn’t come to this country so that my wife could work” and “Daughters are not daughters, and wives don’t act like wives.”
Teenagers and adults will not only enjoy reading this informative novel, but will gain insight into the problems facing new immigrants and their struggle to gain citizenship.
4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
BOOKLIST REVIEW: Gr. 7-10. “What is it like to be an illegal alien in New York now? In a moving first-person, present-tense narrative, Nadira, 14, relates how her family left Bangladesh, came to the U. S. on a tourist visa, and stayed long after the visa expired (Everyone does it. You buy a fake social security number for a few hundred dollars and then you can work. ). Their illegal status is discovered, however, following 9/11, when immigration regulations are tightened.”…”Readers will feel the heartbreak, prejudice, kindness, and fear.”
VOYA REVIEW: Budhos's descriptive writing style helps the story seem more realistic. Nadira's conflicting emotions are portrayed in such a way that even though teens might not identify with her situation, they can easily relate to her feelings. The topics addressed in this book are very relevant in today's society, and teens will quickly be able to make real world connections.
5. CONNECTIONS
This would be a good novel for students to read when studying about immigration in the United States, and could be used in conjunction with learning about Ellis Island. Students could gain perspective of the hardships faced by new immigrants when the country was first founded and compare them to those faced today.
Other Books by Marina Budhos:
Budhos, Marina. Tell Us We’re Home. ISBN-10: 1416903526
Budhos, Marina. Remix, Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers. ISBN-10: 1556356102
Budhos, Marina. The Professor of Light. ISBN-10: 0399144730

 

Review: IN OUR MOTHER'S HOUSE by Patricia Polacco


1. BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Polacco, Patricia. 2009. In Our Mothers’ House. New York: Penguin Group Inc. ISBN ISBN-13: 9780399250767

 2. PLOT SUMMARY

In Our Mothers’ House, is narrated the eldest adopted daughter of this nontraditional family. The family is different because there are two mothers; Marmee, and Meema who have created a household which is full of love and laughter. The narrator tells how each of the siblings was added to the family, from a variety of geographic locations and ethnicities. The family lives in a large house with a staircase, a spacious kitchen where Meema cooked, and a large brick fireplace which was “the heart of their home.” Together with a large group of extended relatives they had noisy holiday celebrations which always began in the kitchen with the cooking. The family was raised in a friendly, supportive neighborhood where they worked together to build a backyard tree house, held block parties, tea parties, and went trick-or-treating in homemade costumes. Although there was one family who “just plain didn’t like us”, the narrator says that they “always tried to be respectful and friendly, the way our mothers taught us to be.


3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Patricia Polacco has featured an untraditional in this lively picture book. Not only does this family have two mothers instead of a mother and father, the children are all adopted.  Cultural markers in this book would be the fact that instead of being a family with a mother and father, this family has two mothers. Instead of focusing on the differences of this lifestyle, however, Polacco has chosen to focus on the ways in which the family created by the two females is similar to traditional families: it is full of love; they all have different personalities, they get sick, go to school, and celebrate holidays with extended family members.
The colorful pencil and marker drawings by Polacco depict the features, while the text tells us the narrator’s memories of how each child was added to the family. It is obvious that the children come from different ethnicities: the eldest child is black, one sibling is Asian, and the other is a red-headed Caucasian. The skin tone of the characters is varied according to their ethnicity, and accurate according to the race being depicted. The colors and drawings created by Polacco add to the energy and liveliness of the text. There are brighter tones used in the illustrations when the children are young and there is a lot of activity in the house, and darker tones as mothers get older and the story draws to a close. For example the statement “We watched our mothers grow old together in that house” is set against a dark background and picture of the aged parents.

Although the representation of the mothers is sometimes stereotypical, “We had never seen either of them in a dress…ever!,” it also portrays them as individuals, “Our mothers were so different from each other that all of us often wondered how they found each other at all.” This story will help students with same-gender parents feel more accepted, and help children from traditional families better understand those who are not traditional.

 4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
CHILDRENS LITERATURE REVIEW: “The family ‘in our mothers' house’ is like many others, filled with love and fun, clearly seen in the smiling characters on the jacket. It is unusual only in that there are two mothers. The narrator is the eldest of three adopted children. She tells the story of her adoption and that of her brother Will and sister, Millie. The children play, sing, and dance together, catch the flu, and celebrate holidays with the extended family.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW:” Eventually, the children grow up, marry heterosexual spouses, and return home to visit their aged parents with their own children. Is this an idealized vision of a how a gay couple can be accepted by their family and community? Absolutely. But the story serves as a model of inclusiveness for children who have same-sex parents, as well as for children who may have questions about a "different" family in their neighborhood. A lovely book that can help youngsters better understand their world.”

5. CONNECTIONS

Other picture books about families by Patricia Polacco:

Polacco, Patricia. Christmas Tapestry. ISBN-10: 0142411655
Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. ISBN-10: 0153052120
Polacco, Patricia. The Blessing Cup. ISBN-10: 1442450479


Other picture books about family diversity:

Adoff, Arnold. Black is Brown is Tan. Ill. by Emily Arnold McCully. ISBN-10: 0064436446
Polacco, Patricia. Chicken Sunday. ISBN-10: 0698116151
Richardson, Justin. And Tango Makes Three. ISBN-10: 0689878451

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TEA WITH MILK by Allen Say

1. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Say, Allen. 1999. Tea with Milk.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.ISBN-10:0395904951

2. PLOT SUMMARY
Born into a Japanese family, but raised in San Francisco, May, (Masako at home), is used to one way of life at home, and another at her friends’ houses. At home they speak Japanese, everywhere else they speak to her in English. “At home she had rice and miso soup and plain green tea for breakfast. At her friends’ houses she ate pancakes and muffins and drank tea with milk and sugar.” May has big plans for her life after she graduates high school. She plans to go to college and live in San Francisco. That changed when her parents decided to move the family back to Japan because they were homesick. May finds herself in a place where she is an outsider in a strange country, “they called her gaijin (foreigner) and laughed at her.” May had to go to Japanese high school to learn Japanese, flower arranging, calligraphy and other skills needed to find a good husband. When her parents hire a matchmaker, May(Masako) rebels and goes to the large city of Osaka where she finds a job and an apartment, and eventually meets her future husband who also likes tea with milk and speaks English.

3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Tea with Milk, which is written and illustrated by Allen Say, begins with comparisons between the two cultures in which his mother grew up.  Although Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, but his mother spent her early years in San Francisco. Say uses beautiful watercolor paintings which accurately capture the expressions on the faces of the characters who are shown with varying facial features and skin tones. For instance, when Masako (May) returns to Japan with her family and has to “wear a kimonos and sit on the floor until her legs were numb,” the author paints her standing slumped over with an unhappy look on her face. When Masako meets with the potential husband who was chosen for her by the matchmaker, both characters are sitting stiffly upright on a bench and turned slightly away from each other. When May discovered the department store that looked like “a gleaming palace” and first got the idea to try to get a job there, the text says “Her heart beat faster and faster. She felt dizzy and confused,” while the picture shows May with an excited and slightly bemused look on her face.

The Japanese culture is well represented in this book which recounts the experiences of Allen Say’s mother as she struggled to find her own way in a life balanced, and sometimes torn between two cultures. Traditional Japanese foods such as green tea, rice, and miso contrast with the spaghetti and hot dogs common to America. Accurate drawings show the architecture of Japan. The differences in the cultural expectations for young women, (go to college and live on your own versus learning the necessary skills to find a husband from a good family), and the clothing, (kimono versus brightly colored dress from California) are revealed in both text and illustrations.
Young readers (recommended for grades K – 6) will enjoy this story of May longing for the home she is used to, struggling to fit in and find a place she can call home, meeting her husband and finding that "home isn't a place or a building that's ready-made and waiting for you, in America or anywhere else,” you have to make it for yourself.

4. REVIEWS/EXCERPTS

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW: “The pages are filled with detailed drawings featuring Japanese architecture and clothing, and because of the artist's mastery at drawing figures, the people come to life as authentic and sympathetic characters. This is a thoughtful and poignant book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly our nation's many immigrants who grapple with some of the same challenges as May and Joseph, including feeling at home in a place that is not their own.”
HORN BOOK REVIEW: "Continuing to explore place and home, Say tells the story of his mother, first introduced to readers in TREE OF CRANES. Born in California to Japanese immigrants, Masako is miserable when she moves to Japan with her parents after high school. The illustrations capture Masako's unhappiness and also her eventual contentment as she learns to combine two cultures."

5. CONNECTIONS
This a great book to read to a class to challenge students to explore their own heritage. Students could talk to parents and grandparents and record their memories and stories of their own family history.

Other books by Allen Say:
Say, Allen. Grandfather’s Journey. ISBN-10: 0547076800
Say, Allen. Emma’s Rug. ISBN-10: 0618335234
Say. Allen. Tree of Cranes. ISBN-10: 054724830X

Review: THE YEAR OF THE DOG by Grace Lin


1. BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Lin, Grace. 2006. The Year of the Dog. New York. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN-10: 031606002X

2. PLOT SUMMARY
When this story opens, Pacy’s Taiwanese-American family is preparing for Chinese New Year’s. Pacy was born in “The Year of the Dog”, so she knows that this will be a lucky year for her. Her mother also tells Grace (Pacy), that "since dogs are honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself."Pacy doesn’t know what she is good at or wants to be. She is not even sure of her culture: Is she American? Taiwanese? Chinese? While Pacy, (Grace) struggles to find herself, she also finds a new friend, Melody, who is Taiwanese-American like her.Pacy and Melody become good friends and work on their science project together. When Melody and Pacy’s families both attend Taiwanese camp, Pacy has a good time until Melody leaves and the other girls at the camp are unkind to her because she is “Americanized.” By the end of the year though, not only has Pacy discovered what she wants to be in life, but she’s found a good friend too.

3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin is a fictional story told in the first person and based upon experiences the author’s own childhood. It is targeted for ages 8–12. In the author’s note, Lin says “I wrote this book because it is the book I wished I had growing up.” Through the story, Grace Lin shares snippets of information about her ownTaiwanese heritage.The author addresses the issues which troublePacy as she tries to “find herself” and shows the significant amount of personal growth this personable protagonist makes in one year, which turns out to be a really “Happy Year of the Dog” for her.

There are many cultural markers in this story such as the family celebrations which are described like Chinese New Year and Pacy’s cousin’s Red Egg party. An example of the blending of her heritages is shown when Pacy is assigned to fill up the Chinese New Year’s tray with candy. She fills it half with Chinese candy and half with M&M’s. Pacy’s father responds that “We should have both Chinese and American candy for the new year. It’s just like us--Chinese-American.”
Mixed in with Pacy’s first-person narrative, are stories her mother tells of her own childhood experiences. These stories parallel many of the experiences that Pacy is having, and serve two purposes: Pacy’s mother helping her through tough decisions and telling the reader more about the culture Pacy’s parents grew up in.
Lin does not try to make the personalities of the characters the same. For instance, even though they are both Tiawanese, Pacy and Melody’s mothers are quite different.One example is the food they feed their families. Grace’s mother prepares her food in a more traditional manner and always has fruit, candy and cookies on hand, while Melody’s mother is very health conscious and only has items such as rice cakes “which taste like paper” and peanuts in the shell without any salt.The book is enhanced by the author’s black-and-white drawings and captions which illustrate and humor and depth to the text.
 
4. REVIEW EXCERPTS

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW: “Lin, best known for her picture books, here offers up a charming first novel, an autobiographical tale of an Asian-American girl's sweet and funny insights on family, identity and friendship. When her family celebrates Chinese New Year, ringing in the Year of the Dog, Pacy (Grace is her American name) wonders what the coming months will bring. Her relatives explain that the Year of the Dog is traditionally the year when people "find themselves," discovering their values and what they want to do with their lives. With big expectations and lots of questions, the narrator moves through the next 12 months trying to figure out what makes her unique and how she fits in with her family, friends and classmates.”

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE REVIEW: “Pacy knows The Year of the Dog will be lucky for her. It was the year in which she was born and her mom tells her "since dogs are honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself." Will she be a scientist? A writer? This readable short novel is even more approachable because of its amusing drawings and instructive family anecdotes.”

5. CONNECTIONS

Other stories by Grace Lin:
Lin, Grace. The Year of the Rat. ISBN-10: 0316033618
Lin, Grace. Dumpling Days. ISBN-10: 031612589X
Lin, Grace. The Ugly Vegetables. ISBN-10: 0881063363
Lin, Grace. The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale. ISBN-10: 0807569224

Review: THE DRAGON PRINCE by Laurence Yep

1. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Yep, Laurence. 1997. The Dragon Prince: a Chinese beauty and the beast tale.Ill. by KamMak.Harper Collins. ISBN-10: 0064435180

2. PLOT SUMMARY
The Dragon Prince is a Chinese re-telling of a beauty and the beast story. When a poor farmer who has seven daughters, is captured by afierce dragon, it is up to one ofhis daughters to save him by marrying the ferocious creature. One by one, all of his daughters refuse until the youngest daughter, Seven, agrees to marry the dragon to save her father’s life. She is taken by the dragon to his magical underwater home deep in the sea, where the dragon turns into a handsome prince. As with all fairytale princesses, Seven is given beautiful clothes, maids, and lives happily until she becomes homesick and begs to go see her family. Seven is allowed ten days to visit her family, but trickery by her jealous older sister, Three, almost keeps Seven from returning to her prince.

3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
In The Dragon Prince, Laurence Yep has created a picture book which is "a Southern Chinese version of a traditional Chinese tale."He has skillfully woven a lesson about family loyalty, sibling rivalry, and the triumph of kindness and integrity over evil into the captivating and magical story. The figurative language in this text such as “the sleepy words became a ball of dark velvet and the lakes silvery sequins” and “his scales gleamed like jewels in a golden net and his eyes shone like twin suns,” make the narrative flow and capturing the attention of the 5 through 8 year olds who are its targeted audience.

Cultural markers are present thorough this story beginning with the naming of the farmer’s daughters who are named in birth order, following Chinese tradition.Also representative of the Chinese culture, are the rich colors and the presence of the dragon in the mystical story. This story is beautifully illustrated with rich colors and textures by KamMak. His illustrations add to the cultural markers in the book. The rich, jewel toned paintings are typical of the culture, and scenes captured, such as the dragon seen flying over the tile roofs of China, traditional clothing of the characters, and the realistic features and skin coloring of the characters further exemplify the characteristics of the culture. Mak, who grew up in New York’s Chinatown, intersperses the magical illustrations of the dragon and his powers with the realistic paintings of the farmer’s dry and barren field in a way which adds suspense and mystery to the plot.
Young readers will be fascinated by the magic, mystery and beautiful illustrations in this story, whether they read it themselves, or it is read to them.

4. REVIEWS/EXCERPTS
KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Yep tells the tale with colorful descriptions and repeated refrains, while Mak's splendid, realistic paintings, in dark jewel tones bordered with white, extend the text elegantly--the scene of the dragon flying over Chinese tile roofs is especially beautiful.”
BOOKLIST REVIEW: “In this Chinese variant of "Beauty and the Beast," dragon and girl soar into the night sky and then plunge into a deep sea, where the girl's courage and character are tested again before she discovers that her future husband is a handsome human and ruler of the sea kingdom. After spending some time in her husband's kingdom, she visits her family's home, where both her inner and her outward strength are further tested. Mak's illustrations dramatically combine realism and fantasy. The suspense of the story and the charm of its language should appeal to readers of different ages. A good choice for reading aloud.”

5. CONNECTIONS
Students could read different versions of Beauty and the Beast stories from different cultures and make comparisons.
How does Seven show that she honors her father? What other family relationships are present in this story? Do the characters and the way that they treat each other make the students think of any personal experiences?

Otherbooks by Laurence Yep:
Yep, Laurence. Dragon’s Gate – An Image of Poetry. ISBN-10: 0064404897
Yep, Laurence.Dragonwings. ISBN-10: 0064400859
Yep, Laurence.The Earth Dragon Awakes. ISBN-10: 0060008466

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: NAVAJO CODE TALKERS by Andrew Santella


1. BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Santella, Andrew. 2004. Navajo Code Talkers. Captstone Press. ISBN-13: 9780756510206

2. PLOT SUMMARY
During WWII, the Allied forces needed to find a way to communicate quickly, accurately and secretly in order to get the victory. Although radio was efficient for this communication, the Japanese could also listen in on conversations and find out what the Allied forces knew. Secret codes were quickly broken, requiring more and more complicated codes to be devised. Thanks to Philip Johnston, a Los Angeles Engineer who had grown up among the Navajos, they found a solution. The Navajo language was very intricate and difficult even for other Native American Peoples to understand, so Johnston proposed that a code based upon the Navajo language be created. The government recruited 29 Navajos to develop the code and serve as communicators. These “Code Talkers” served on the front lines, reporting on progress, enemy plans, and requesting reinforcement as needed.

3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Navajo Code Talkers by Andrew Santella is part of the “We the People” series from Compass Point Books. In this book, Santella brings to light the secret contributions the Navajo recruits made to the success of World War II. The authenticity of Santella’s information is supported by various direct quotes such as this statement by Marine Major Howard Connor who said that “were it not for the Navajo, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima” and the battle report from Marine Captain Ralph Stuckey that “the code talkers were the simplest, fastest, and most reliable means available to send secret orders.”The list of content advisors on the book’s title page also bears credence to the accuracy of the information provided.  

Santella did not ignore the Navajo culture in this book. He devoted several pages to the history of the Navajo people, their mistreatment and relocation by the United States Government. At the beginning of the book, Santella tells the reader that the Native American students at government-run schools were forbidden to speak their native language, and would get their mouths washed out with soap for doing so. The author includes pictures of Navajos herding sheep on the reservation, the Navajo leader Manuelito, Shiprock, (a spiritual symbol of the Navajo Nation), and a photo of a Navajo woman with a baby on her back to help the reader to connect to the history of the Navajo nation.

This book is recommended for ages 9 – 11, and Andrew Santella does an excellent job of conveying this important page of our nation’s history in language which is easily understood and interesting to this age group. The plentiful collection of archival photographs adds to the high interest level of the book. In the back of the book, the reader will find a glossary, a “Did You Know?” page, a timeline, list of important people, and a list of sources where those who are curious can look for more information. Boys especially will be interested the war photos, the sample page of the Navajo dictionary and explanation of how the code was made. 

4. REVIEW EXCERPTS

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE REVIEW: “This book is easy to read and visually interesting. The text has a good balance of simple language and complex ideas. It is illustrated with historical photographs and graphs explaining the code. While the glossary is very small, the other reference tools are very informative. It even has a web site that will help with additional research. This is an excellent book, especially for struggling readers.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW: Gr 4-6-“According to Marine Major Howard Connor, ‘Were it not for the Navajo, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima." During that battle, "six code talkers worked day and night to send more than 800 messages. They made not a single mistake.’ Their story is told with brevity and directness and illustrated with archival war photos, a sample of the code, and other documents and maps. This is a high-interest topic and a good first source that will certainly spark imaginations.”

5. CONNECTIONS

Nathan Aaseng's Navajo Code Takers (Walker, 1992) and Deanne Durrett's Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers (Facts On File, 1998) are for older readers but could be used in conjunction with this title.
Students could be challenged to create codes of their own using the Navajo code, the English Language or numbers. Once they have created a code, they can write a secret message and challenge a friend to decipher it.