Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac
Official Summary: “The United States is at war, and sixteen-year-old Ned Begay wants to join the cause - especially when he hears that Navajos are being specifically recruited by the Marine Corps. So he claims he’s old enough to enlist, breezes his way through boot camp, and suddenly finds himself involved in a top-secret task, one that’s exclusively performed by Navajos. He has become a code talker. Now Ned must brave some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with his native Navajo language as code, send crucial messages back and forth to aid in the conflict against Japan. His experiences in the Pacific - from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima and beyond - will leave him forever changed.”
The work of Navajo Code Talkers during World War II is a little-known piece of U.S. history. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac aims to raise the profile of this important contribution by Navajos to the World War II war effort. The book is a novel that is structured as a fictionalized tale of a Navajo man recounting his work as a code talker to his grandchildren. Starting from the first time Ned Begay leaves his home to attend a boarding school where he is taught by teachers who forbid the use of the Navajo language and ending after his return home after his service as a Code Talker in the war, the book gives readers a vivid picture of the experiences of many Navajos who served in the Marines during World War II. The story is an interesting combination of historical facts and a personalized narrative that makes the reader very invested in Ned’s life. While there are many detailed descriptions of battles and fighting across the Pacific theater, the book does not glorify war and offers a historical perspective on the events.
Although the account is fictionalized, the author’s note at the end of the book makes it clear that the events are very closely based on facts drawn from the author’s extensive research. By structuring the story as the narrator’s personal story, Bruchac makes it much more personal and presents the injustices of Ned’s early life and his important contributions, together with other Code Talkers, to the war effort. The book will leave readers excited to find out more about Navajo culture and World War II, which is made easier by the helpful bibliography that Bruchac has included at the end of the book to encourage readers to learn more about these topics. Code Talker would be a great option for young readers who already have an interest in either World War II or Native American culture, but it is also an engaging read for older readers who are curious about the history of code talkers and their place in the history of the Marine Corps.
Check it Out: Code Talker is currently available.
Readalike: Those interested in a nonfiction version of this story will want to read Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, which is a memoir geared towards older readers. Those interested in another powerful young adult story of World War II should try Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.