Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two

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Overview

"Readers who choose the book for the attraction of Navajo code talking and the heat of battle will come away with more than they ever expected to find."—Booklist, starred review

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 ...

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Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two

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Overview

"Readers who choose the book for the attraction of Navajo code talking and the heat of battle will come away with more than they ever expected to find."—Booklist, starred review

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.

"Bruchac's gentle prose presents a clear historical picture of young men in wartime, island hopping across the Pacific, waging war in the hells of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Iwo Jima. Nonsensational and accurate, Bruchac's tale is quietly inspiring..."—School Library Journal

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"When WWII broke out, Navajos…were recruited by the Marine Corps to use their native language to create an unbreakable code….Telling his story to his grandchildren, Ned relates his experiences in school, military training, and across the Pacific….With its multicultural themes and well-told WWII history, this will appeal to a wide audience." Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142405963
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 7/6/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 45,079
  • Age range: 10 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Bruchac is a highly acclaimed children's book author, poet, novelist and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture. Coauthor with Michael Caduto of the bestselling Keepers of the Earth series, Bruchac's poems, articles and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, from Akwesasne Notes and American Poetry Review to National Geographic and Parabola.
He has authored many books for adults and children including Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, Skeleton Man, and The Heart of a Chief.
For more information about Joseph, please visit his website www.josephbruchac.com.

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Read an Excerpt

NAVAJOS WANTED.

Grandchildren, you asked me about this medal of mine. There is much to be said about it. This small piece of metal holds a story that I was not allowed to speak for many winters. It is the true story of how Navajo Marines helped America win a great war. There is much that I must remember to speak for this medal, to tell its story as it should be told. I must remember not only the great secret with which I was trusted, but also all that happened to me and those like me. That is a lot. But I think that I can do it well enough. After all, I was expected to remember, as were the other men trained with me. The lives of many men depended entirely on our memories.

OTHER BOOKS BY JOSEPH BRUCHAC

The Arrow Over the Door

Children of the Longhouse

Eagle’s Song

The Heart of a Chief

The Winter People

CODE TALKER

A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two

JOSEPH BRUCHAC

Listen, My Grandchildren

Grandchildren, you asked me about this medal of mine. There is much to be said about it. This small piece of metal holds a story that I was not allowed to speak for many winters. It is the true story of how Navajo Marines helped America win a great war. There is much that I must remember to speak for this medal, to tell its story as it should be told. I must remember not only the great secret with which I was trusted, but also all that happened to me and those like me. That is a lot. But I think that I can do it well enough. After all, I was expected to remember, as were the other men trained with me. The lives of many men depended entirely on our memories.

Look here. The man you see riding a horse on the back of this medal was an Indian. He is also one of those raising that flag there behind him. I knew him when we were both young men. His name was Ira Hayes. He was a fine person, even though he was not one of our people, but Akimel O’odam, a Pima Indian. We both fought on a distant island far off in the Pacific Ocean. There was smoke all around us from the exploding shells, the snapping sound of Japanese .25 caliber rifles, the thumping of mortars, and the rattling of machine guns. We could hear the pitiful cries of wounded men, our own Marines and the enemy soldiers, too.

It was a terrible battle. But our men were determined as they struggled up that little mountain. On top of it is where Ira was photographed, raising the flag of Nihimá. I was not one of those who fought to the top of Mount Suribachi, but I had my own special part to play. I helped send the message about our success, about the brave deeds so many Marines did that day for Nihimá.

Nihimá, “Our Mother.” That is the Navajo word we chose to mean our country, this United States. It was a good name to use. When we Indians fought on those far-off islands, we always kept the thought in our minds that we were defending Our Mother, the sacred land that sustains us.

Nihimá is only one of the Navajo words we chose for places with bilagáanaa names. South America became Sha-de-ah-Nihimá, “Our Mother to the South.” Alaska we called Bee hai, “With Winter.” Because we knew that Britain is an island, we gave it the name of Tó tah, “Surrounded by Water.” When we did not know much about a place, we described something about the people there. So we named Germany Béésh bich’ahii, “Iron Hat,” and Japan was Bináá’ádaálts’ozí, “Slant-eyed.”

Sometimes we didn’t know much about either the country or the people there, but that did not stop us. We used our sense of humor and played with the English. The word we used for Spain was Dibé diniih, which means “Sheep Pain.”

But I am getting ahead of myself. I have not even explained to you yet why we made up such names. I have not told you why being able to speak our Navajo language, the same Navajo language they tried to beat out of me when I was a child, was so important during World War Two. It was because I was a Navajo code talker.

What was a code talker and what did we code talkers do? Why was the secret we shared so great that we could not tell even our families about it until long after the war ended?

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 the frame. I will start where my own story of words and warriors begins.

CHAPTER ONE

Sent Away

I was only six years old and I was worried. I sat behind our hogan, leaning against its familiar walls and looking up toward the mesa. I hoped I would see an eagle, for that would be a good sign. I also hoped I would not hear anyone call my name, for that would be a sign of something else entirely. But the eagle did not appear. Instead, my mother’s voice, not much louder than a whisper, broke the silence.

“Kii Yázhí, come. Your uncle is in the wagon.”

The moment I dreaded had arrived. I stood and looked toward the hills. I could run up there and hide. But I did not do so, for I had always obeyed my mother—whose love for me was as certain as the firmness of the sacred earth beneath my moccasins. However, I did drag my feet as I came out from behind our hogan to see what I knew I would see. There stood my tall, beautiful mother. Her thick black hair was tied up into a bun. She was dressed in her finest clothing—a new, silky blue blouse and a blue pleated skirt decorated with bands of gold ribbons. On her feet were soft calf-high moccasins, and she wore all her silver and turquoise jewelry. Her squash-blossom necklace, her bracelets, her concha belt, her earrings—I knew she had adorned herself with all of these things for me. She wanted me to have this image of her to keep in my mind, to be with me when I was far from home.

However, the thing I saw most clearly was what she held in her arms. It was a small bundle of my clothes tied in a blanket. My heart sank. I really was going to be sent away.

My mother motioned toward the door of our hogan and I went inside. My great-grandfather was waiting for me on his bed. He was too weak to walk and was so old that he had shrunk in size. He had never been a big man, but now he was almost as small as me. Great-grandfather took my hand in both of his.

“Be strong, Kii Yázhí,” he rasped, his voice as creaky as an old saddle. I stood up on my toes so that I could put my arms around his neck and then pressed my cheek against his leathery face. “Kii Yázhí,” he said again, patting my back. “Our dear little boy.”

I had always been small for my age. My father used to tease me about it, saying that when I was born he made my cradleboard out of the handle of a wooden spoon. My baby name was Awéé Yázhí. Little Baby. Little I was and little I stayed. I went from being Awéé Yázhí, Little Baby, to Kii Yázhí, Little Boy.

“You are small,” my grandfather said, as if he could hear what I was thinking. “But your heart is large. You will do your best.”

I nodded.

When I stepped outside, my mother bent down and embraced me much harder than my grandfather had hugged me. Then she stepped back to stand by the door of our hogan.

“Travel safely, my son,” Mother said. Her voice was so sad.

My father came up to me and put his broad, calloused hands on my shoulders. He, too, was wearing his best clothing and jewelry. Though he said nothing, I think Father was even sadder than my mother, so sad that words failed him. He was shorter than her, but he was very strong and always stood so straight that he seemed tall as a lodgepole pine to me. His eyes were moist as he lifted me up to the wagon seat and then nodded.

My uncle clucked to the horses and shook the reins. The wagon lurched forward. As I grabbed the wooden backboard to steady myself, I felt a splinter go into my finger from the rough wood, but I ignored the pain. Instead I pulled myself around to turn backward and wave to my parents. I kept waving even after we went around the sagebrush-covered hill and I could no longer see them waving back at me, my father with his back straight and his hand held high, my mother with one hand pressed to her lips while the other floated as gracefully as a butterfly. I did not know it, but it would be quite some time before I saw my home again.

The wheels of the wagon rattled over the ruts in the road. I waved and waved and kept waving. Finally my uncle gently touched me on the wrist. My uncle was the only one in our family who had ever been to the white man’s school. His words had helped convince his sister, my mother, to send me to that faraway place. Now he was taking me there, to Gallup, where the mission school was located.

“Kii Yázhí,” he said, “look ahead.”

I turned to look up at my uncle’s kind face. His features were sharp, as hard and craggy as the rocks, but his eyes were friendly and the little mustache he wore softened his mouth. I was frightened by the thought of being away from home for the first time in my life, but I was also trying to find courage. My uncle seemed to know that.

“Little Boy,” he said, “Sister’s first son, listen to me. You are not going to school for yourself. You are doing this for your family. To learn the ways of the bilagáanaa, the white people, is a good thing. Our Navajo language is sacred and beautiful. Yet all the laws of the United States, those laws that we now have to live by, they are in English.”

I nodded, trying to understand. It was not easy. Back then, school was such a new thing for our people. My parents and their parents before them had not gone to school to be taught by strangers. They had learned all they knew from their own relatives and from wise elders who knew many things, people who lived with us. People just like us.

My uncle sat quietly for a time, stroking his mustache with the little finger of his right hand. The wagon rattled along, the horses’ hooves clopped against the stones in the road. I waited, knowing that my uncle had not yet finished talking. When he stroked his mustache like that, it meant he was thinking and choosing his words with care. It was important not to rush when there was something worthwhile to say.

Then he sighed. “Ah,” he said, “your great-grandfather was your age when the Americans, led by Red Shirt, Kit Carson, made their final war against the Navajos. They wished either to kill us all or remove every Indian from this land. They did this because they did not know us. They did not really understand about the Mexicans.”

My uncle turned toward me to see if I understood his words. I politely looked down at my feet and nodded. I knew about the Mexicans. For many years, the Mexicans raided our camps and stole away our people. We were sold as slaves. So our warriors fought back. They raided the villages where our people were held as slaves, rescuing them and taking away livestock from those who attacked us.

“When the Americans came,” my uncle continued, “our people tried to be friends with them. But they did not listen to us. They listened to the Mexicans, who could speak their language and said that we were bad people. Instead of helping to free us from slavery, the Americans ordered all the Navajos to stop raiding the slave traders. Some of our bands signed papers and kept the promise not to raid. But each Navajo band had its own headmen. Not all of them signed such papers. So, when all of our people did not stop raiding, the Americans made war on all of the Navajos. They burned our crops, killed our livestock, and cut down our peach trees. They drove our people into exile. They sent us on the Long Walk.”

Again my uncle paused to stroke his mustache and again I nodded. I had heard stories about the Long Walk from my great-grandfather. The whole Navajo tribe was forced to walk hundreds of miles to a strange and faraway place the white men called Fort Sumner. Hundreds of our people died along the way and even more died there. The earth was salty and dry. Our corn crops failed year after year. Sometimes late winter storms swept in and men froze while they were trying to work the fields. Our people began to call that place Hwééldi, the place where only the wind could live. Our people had no houses, but lived in pits dug into the earth. Indians from other tribes attacked us. We were kept there as prisoners for four winters. Even though I was a little boy, I knew this history as well as my own name.

“Kii Yázhí,” my uncle said, his voice slow and serious as he spoke. “It was hard for our people to be so far away from home, but they did not give up. Our people never forgot our homeland between the four sacred mountains. Our people prayed. They did a special ceremony. Then the minds of the white men changed. Our people agreed never again to fight against the United States and they were allowed to go back home. But even though the white men allowed us to come home, we now had to live under their laws. We had to learn their ways. That is why some of us must go to their schools. We must be able to speak to them, tell them who we really are, reassure them that we will always be friends of the United States. That is why you must go to school: not for yourself, but for your family, for our people, for our sacred land.”

As my uncle spoke, I saw my great-grandfather’s face in my mind. There had been tears of love and pity in his eyes as I left our hogan. I knew now that he had been remembering what it was like when he had been forced to go far away from home. He had been praying life would not be as hard for me at school as it had been for him at Hwééldi.

My uncle dropped his hand onto my shoulder. “Can you do this?” he asked me.

“Yes, Uncle,” I said. “I will try hard to learn for our people and our land.”

We had reached the hill that marked the edge of our grazing lands. I had never gone beyond that hill before. As my uncle clucked again to the horses, I noticed the pain in my finger and saw the splinter still lodged in it. I carefully worked it free. The tip of that thin needle of wood was red with my blood. Before we went over the hill, I dropped it onto the brown earth. Although I had to go away, I could still leave a little of myself behind.

CHAPTER TWO

Boarding School

The boarding school was more than a hundred miles from my home, so our journey took us several days. We slept out under the silver moon and the bright stars. Each morning my uncle cooked food for us over the fire, usually mutton and beans. Those meals were so good and the time I spent with him was precious to me. I knew I was soon going to be away from all of my family. I shall never forget that journey.

However, what I remember most is the morning of my arrival at Rehoboth Mission. It did not begin well for me. As soon as my uncle reached the gate of the school, like all the other parents and relatives who had traveled far to bring their children there, he was told that he had to go. He patted me one final time on my shoulder, stroked his mustache with his other hand, and nodded slowly.

“You will remember,” he said.

He watched me walk through the gate before he climbed back up onto the seat of the wagon, lifted his reins, clucked to the horses, and drove off without looking back. He did not say good-bye. There is no word for good-bye in Navajo.

So I was left standing there, a sad little boy holding tight against my chest the thin blanket in which my few belongings were tied. But I was not alone. There were many other Navajo children standing there, just as uncertain as I was. Like me, those boys and girls were wearing their finest clothing. Their long black hair glistened from being brushed again and again by loving relatives. The newest deerskin moccasins they owned were on their feet. Like me, many of them wore family jewelry made of silver, inset with turquoise and agate and jet. Our necklaces and bracelets, belts and hair ornaments, were a sign of how much our families loved us, a way of reminding those who would now be caring for us how precious we were in the eyes of our relatives.

Suddenly, as if everyone had remembered their manners all at once, we began to introduce ourselves to each other as Navajos are always supposed to do. We said hello, spoke our names, told each other our clans and where we were from. As you know, our clan system teaches us how we were born and shows us how to grow. By knowing each other’s clan—the clan of the mother that we were born to, the clan of the father that we were born for—we can recognize our relatives.

“Yáát’eeh,” a tall Navajo boy with a red headband said to me. “Hello. I am Many Horses. I am born to Bitter Water Clan and born for Towering House. My birthplace is just west of Chinle below the hills there to the west.”

Hearing his polite words made me feel less sad and I answered him slowly and carefully. “Yáát’eeh. I am Kii Yázhí. I was born for Mud Clan and born to Towering House. My birth place is over near Grants. I am the son of Gray Mustache.”

A round-faced girl wearing a silky shawl stepped closer to me and bowed her head. “Hello, my relative,” she said. “I am Dawn Girl. I, too, was born to Mud Clan. I am born for Corn Clan.”

It was not always easy for me to understand what those other boys and girls were saying. Even though we all spoke in Navajo, we had come from many distant parts of Dinetah. In those days, our language was not spoken the same everywhere by every group of Navajos. But, despite the fact that some of those other children spoke our sacred language differently, what we were doing made me feel happier and more peaceful. We were doing things as our elders had taught us. We were putting ourselves in balance.

Suddenly a huge white man with a red face appeared on the porch above us.

“Be quiet!” he roared at us in English.

Even though most of us could not understand the words he shouted, we all stopped talking. For a moment, before we remembered it is impolite to stare, we all looked up at him. Many of us had seen white people before, when we went to the trading posts with our elders. Almost every trading post was run by white men. Most of them also had their wives and families with them. Because there were no other kids around, those bilagáanaa boys and girls often played with the Navajo children. Some of those white traders’ children even learned to speak Navajo pretty well—at least much better than their parents.

It is not easy for other people, even other Indians, to learn to speak Navajo properly. The traders always tried to use a little Navajo, but they knew very few words. Sometimes they thought they were saying one thing when they were saying something quite different. I liked to hear the funny way the trader at our post tried to talk Navajo. But I kept a straight face because it would have been rude to laugh at a grown-up, even a grown-up bilagáanaa who had just said that all sheep above the age of six should be in school.

However, even though most of us had seen white men before, none of us had ever seen one like that red-faced white man who yelled at us on my first day at the boarding school. His skin was so red that it seemed to be burning. His hair was also that same fiery color. Moreover, his hair was not just on top of his head—where thick hair is supposed to be. It was all over his face. Among Navajos, some men may allow a little hair to grow on their upper lip—just as my uncle and my father did. But this red man had as much hair on his face as an animal. It was on his cheeks, his chin, his neck. Thick red hair even grew out of his ears. He pointed his finger and yelped more words that none of us understood.

“Is that a man speaking or is it a dog?” one of the boys next to me whispered in Navajo.

He wasn’t joking. It was a serious question. The huge white man’s angry shouts did sound like the barking of a dog. We all put our heads down as that red-dog white man yelped and roared. Finally, he became silent. But he kept staring down at us, waiting for something. When none of us moved, but just stood there, politely looking down at the ground, he barked at us again even louder.

We did not realize that he was ordering us to lift up our faces. We could not understand that he was telling us we must look at him to pay attention. None of us yet had learned that white people expect you to look into their eyes—the way you stare at an enemy when you are about to attack. Among bilagáanaas, the only time children look down is when they are ashamed of something.

“What does he want?” a girl whispered in a frightened voice. “He seems angry enough to eat us.”

A dark-skinned man with a kind face walked up to stand beside the big, red white man. The red white man growled something at him and the dark-skinned man nodded. Then he turned to us.

Yáát’eeh, my dear children,” he said in Navajo in a comforting voice. “My name is Mr. Jacob Benally. I am born to Salt Clan and born for Arrow Clan.”

That was when all of us realized this dark-skinned man was Navajo. We had not even thought he was any kind of Indian at all before he spoke. It was not just because he was dressed like a white man, but because his hair was so short. He wore no hat and you could see that all his hair had been cut off close to his scalp. We had never seen a Navajo man with such short hair. Back then, all Navajo men were supposed to have long hair.

Realizing that this man, dressed like a white man, was a Navajo made us look around the school yard. We had already noticed there were many older boys and girls there, all in uniforms. We had thought they were bilagáanaa children. They were watching us silently. Now we looked at them differently, seeing that their emotionless faces looked Navajo. But none of them had come to introduce themselves.

Many Horses, the tall boy with the red headband, spoke up.

“My uncle,” he said to Mr. Jacob Benally, using the polite form of address to show he respected this man like a relative, “are those other children in bilagáanaa clothing also Navajos?”

“Yes, my nephew,” Mr. Jacob Benally said, “but I am sorry that I must now tell you something. Listen well. You are forbidden to speak Navajo. You must all speak in English or say nothing at all.”

All of us stood there in silence. Most of us did not know any words in English. Those who did know some English words were so shocked that they could not remember any of them. Finally, Mr. Jacob Benally helped us.

“Children,” he said in Navajo, “here is a word of greeting that you can say. Watch how I hold my mouth and then repeat it after me. Heh-low. Heh-low.”

All of us did as he said. We opened our mouths and made those two sounds. “Heh-low, heh-low, heh-low.”

We hoped that this kind Navajo man would stay with us and keep talking Navajo. His job as an interpreter, though, was for one day and one day only. After that he went back to working in the stables and speaking broken English.

The only way left to us was to speak English. Thinking back on it, years later, I see now that it was a good policy in one sense. In the weeks that followed, we learned English much more quickly because we could not use our native tongue. But I can never forget how sad it made me feel when I learned enough English to understand what the angry, red white man, whose name was Principal O’Sullivan, had to say about our sacred language and our whole Navajo culture.

“Navajo is no good, of no use at all!” Principal O’Sullivan shouted at us every day. “Only English will help you get ahead in this world!”

Although the teachers at the school spoke in quieter tones than our principal, they all said the same. It was no good to speak Navajo or be Navajo. Everything about us that was Indian had to be forgotten.

CHAPTER THREE

To Be Forgotten

They took away our hair.

“My children,” Mr. John Benally said, after teaching us how to say hello in English, “I am sorry, but you must go now into this room.”

We did as he asked. One by one we were herded into a little shed where three tall, uniformed Navajo boys, whose hair was as short as Mr. John Benally’s, were waiting.

I should explain, grandchildren, that in those days, among our people, both men and women always kept their hair long. It was a sacred thing. Cutting your hair was believed to bring misfortune to you. But at mission school they had other beliefs.

I was the first one in line. Two of the uniformed boys took me by my arms, one on each side, and pulled me over to a chair.

“What are you doing?” I said in Navajo, just loud enough so that they could hear. But they did not answer me.

Instead, they pushed me down into that hard wooden chair and held me firmly—as if I were a sheep about to be sheared. Then another boy with a big pair of scissors chopped off my hair. He did it so quickly that it was over almost before I knew it. Another stunned child was being led in, and shoved into that chair even before I was out the door.

Both boys and girls had their hair cut. The only difference was that the hair of the girls was left a little longer than the boys. But I could see from the looks on their faces that losing most of their beautiful hair made those girls feel the same way I felt. Naked and ashamed.

Not only our hair was stripped away. After being shorn, we were led into two separate buildings, one for the boys and another for the girls. Once we were inside, we were made to take off all our fine clothing and our jewelry. We never saw those clothes or jewels again. Years later I learned that our squash-blossom necklaces and turquoise bracelets, earrings and hair ornaments and silver belts, were sold to white men and women.

In exchange for my clothing and jewelry, I was issued a military-style uniform made of cloth that was rough and itchy, and a stiff cap that was shoved down onto my head. The uniform and cap were too big for me, so big that my cap came down over my eyes. That made no difference to the older students who were handing out our new clothing. Once I was dressed I was pushed out onto the school yard. There, we new students were formed into a line and made to stand at attention, with the boys on one side of the yard and the girls, who were now wearing long brown dresses, aprons, and head coverings, on the other.

It was so strange. Where only a few moments before, there had been a colorful crowd of Navajo children, each one different from the other, now we all looked just the same. In our drab uniforms, the only difference between us boys was our size. Of course, I was the smallest one. I remember thinking that they had removed from us everything that we owned. But I was wrong. There was still one more thing to be taken.

We were led one by one to stand in front of a skinny white man with yellow hair who was sitting at a desk. A white board with curved black marks on it was propped up on that desk. None of us could read English, but I learned later that those curving marks that twisted like worms were the letters of the man’s name: Mr. Reamer. I also learned later that he always did the job he was about to do with us new students because he had convinced himself that he understood our language.

Mr. John Benally stood close to help with translating as Mr. Reamer asked each child the name of his or her father. That translation would help decide each student’s new last name in English. For example, one of the boys in our group said he was the son of Bilíí daalbáhí, “One who Has Roan Horses.” He became John Roanhorse. Mr. Reamer seemed very fond of the name John and gave it to lots of boys. Also, if he did not like the way someone’s last name sounded in English when it was translated from Navajo, he would just choose another last name and give it to that boy or girl.

We did not know it at the time, but some of the last names we got were the names of famous dead white men. Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and so on. That was shocking to me when I discovered it later. Among our people no one is ever deliberately given the name of someone who has died.

When it came to be my turn I stood at attention in front of the desk. The skinny, yellow-haired white man said something to me. What he said sounded very strange. It did not sound like any language I had ever heard before, not even the English that everyone around us was now speaking. Once again the white man made those unpleasant noises. He sounded like someone trying to speak when his mouth is full of food.

“He thinks he is talking Navajo,” Mr. John Benally whispered into my ear. “He is trying to ask you the name of your father.”

“Dágháatbáhi Biye’,” I said. “I am the son of the One with a Gray Mustache.”

“Huh,” said Mr. Reamer as he wrote something down on his paper. “Another Begay.”

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Table of Contents

Code Talker
Listen, My Grandchildren
1. Sent Away
2. Boarding School
3. To Be Forgotten
4. Progress
5. High School
6. Sneak Attack
7. Navajos Wanted
8. New Recruits
9. The Blessingway
10. Boot Camp
11. Code School
12. Learning the Code
13. Shipping Out to Hawaii
14. The Enemies
15. Field Maneuvers
16. Bombardment
17. First Landing
18. On Bougainville
19. Do You Have a Navajo?
20. The Next Targets
21. Guam
22. Fatigue
23. Pavavu
24. Iwo Jima
25. In Sight of Suribachi
26. The Black Beach
27. Okinawa
28. The Bomb
29. Going Home
Author's Note
Selected Bibliography
Acknowledgments

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(9)

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2009

    Bought it for Independent Reading for 11-year-old boy

    My son and I both loved this book. He's not a reader, but it's told almost in the voice of a person sharing an Indian legend, which kept him interested through the slower parts. And I, as an adult, didn't find it too simplistic even though it was also perfect for an 11-year-old.

    After we finished this book, my son asked me if there were other books like this because his teacher makes them find an Independent Reading book every month and he usually finds it torturous.

    Highly, HIGHLY recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Code Talker - review by parent

    This book was one of the choices on the required summer reading list for 8th graders. My son is not a huge reader but enjoyed this book because it is well written and deals with a subject most people do not know about. The story begins with a straight forward account of how some Navajo children were sent to boarding schools to be "taught" how to be less Navajo. In particular, that the Navajo children should speak only English and not their native language. It talks about pride and, how for the narrator, this was a hurtful experience. However, during World War II, when enemies were breaking military codes, the Navajo language became instrumental in sending messages. Much of the book is about the battles for the South Pacific islands. Information is given when a fellow soldier is killed but it is presented in a matter-of-fact way without being too detailed (the reader comes away with a sadness about, for example, the loss of a friend). Importantly, the book tells about the pride felt by the Navajos who, ultimately, were respected by their peers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

    highly recommeneded

    very hard to get into. but once you keep reading it becomes a very interesting book. it really lets you know about the past and lets you see it through others eyes and really lets you know how they felt

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

    Great Book

    This book Code Talkers, was very interesting and gave me a lot of new information. It was a very addicting story that i never wanted to put down. This book is about a young boy Ned Begay. He was forced into boarding school at a young age to learn the english way of life. The boarding school was ran by all whit Americans that forbid Ned and his other Navajo companions to never speak their native toung again. After graduating from his boarding school at age 15, he joined the United States Marine Corps. While he is in boot camp he finds out that all navajo indians are going to become "Code Talkers". Their job was to pass secret codes through their Navajo net in the south pacific. While fighting against the Japanese this was the marines new secret weapon. Find out what happens to Ned and his other Navajo brothers by picking up this great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    The best book in the World!!!!!!!

    I do not read very much at all. But this book i just could not put down. Also easy to understand too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Informative

    This book was all right. It was not my favorite WW2 novel, but it did surpass a few. This book was very informative, I learned a lot, but it wasn't absorbing. I often felt I was only being preached at, and I didn't even remember the main characters name, because everything seemed so impersonal. It felt like a history text book, and wasn't nearly dark enough for a WW2 novel. One thing it did manage to capture whole-heartedly was the Navajo spirit.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2009

    Code Talker Central

    Code Talker is a historical fiction novel, written in a first person perspective. It follows the life of a Navajo Indian from his first days at a mission school to the end of World War II. Joseph Bruchac's fictional tale of Ned Begay not only provides an interesting story, but also has educational value.

    The casual style in which Code Talker is written helps give some leeway in terms of formal writing. Bruchac uses the relaxed style to give extra detail or information, such as the meanings of military acronyms, or Navajo rituals. This extra information gives clarity to the story.

    Bruchac himself is a Native American, and he expresses his fascination with the Navajo code talkers in the author's note at the end of the book. This enthusiasm is shown through a vast knowledge of both World War II and Navajo history.

    That's not to say that the story is overpowered by facts and figures. They are only used to help give perspective, scale, and detail. The presence of so many details also helps to give believability to a fictional account.

    I only have two complaints about the story: the book should have continued into Ned's post-war years in America, and it could have had a more mature perspective. That doesn't necessarily mean a story filled with blood and gore, but there could and should have been more sadness and death in a novel about World War II.

    Code Talker is a good introductory novel about the Navajo code talkers in World War II. It also provides information on Navajo traditions, and the bibliography at the end of the book gives suggestions of further reading. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in a lesser-known aspect of World War II.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2009

    The Navajo Marines of World War II

    Unknown by many, but the Navajo Indians played a key role in the winning of World War II. They're language was used to send secret messages from unit to unit without being intercepted by the enemies. Known as code talkers, these men risked their lives and were quite important in World War II. This book was hard to put down and I wanted to read more and more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2008

    Code Talker

    The book Code Talker was a quite an interesting, and somewhat addicting story of a young boy by the name of Ned Begay. He is forced into a boarding school at the age of 6, to learn English, and the American way of life. His boarding school is run by white Americans. At the boarding school, Ned and his fellow Navajo indians are given clothes, and food, but are forced to never speak their native tongue, Navajo. After graduating from his school, at the age of 15, Ned enlists himself into the Marines. After being sent into Boot Camp, Ned finds out that they need all the Navajo indians to become "Code Talkers". They would pass codes to other Navajo's through radio codes while fighting against the Japanese. Those codes were to be sent in their forbidden language, Navajo. The Marines were using them as a secret weapon. Ned and the other Navajo's end up saving countless American Marines through their sacred language. Ned's experiences in training and even on the battle field change him forever.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2008

    GREAT BOOK!!!

    Code Talker By: Joseph Bruchac. Navajos to the rescue! Ned Begay is a Navajo that is sent to boarding school. He passes through boarding school with flying colors, and moves on to high school. Most of his friends are a year older than him. They join the service as Marines. They came back from war all dressed up in their uniforms which makes Ned want to join. Now it¿s his turn to come home and impress everyone at home. This book is great for the ages 10-20. This book is easy to read and to follow along. The author¿s tale of the book is inspiring to young adults. The book will send your emotions on a roller coaster. It will pick your spirit up, and sometimes make you think how cruel the world really is. The pace of the book was strange. It would get really intense and then slowly work its way back up like it was a pattern. The whole idea that using the Navajo language to send codes was real, and was kept classified for twenty years. The book also contains actual Navajo language. This book has a lot of information of World War Two and the way of Navajo people. I would recommend this book for people that like stuff about wars, don¿t like to read, and want to help lift their spirit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2008

    It is a good book for middle school readers

    Code Talker By: Joseph Bruchac. Have you ever thought how people communicate to each other during war? They use to use the Navajo Indians to communicate so no one knows. The Navajos have a special language only they know. This book is about a young man named Ned Begay who was assigned to serve as a code talker. Which they used the Navajo language as the code. This book is for grades fifth and up. It is about young man at war that is a Navajo code talker. In case you don¿t like hard words, there are not that many hard words but when run in to one is pretty tough. The author¿s voice is quietly interesting. Though in some parts his voice gets dull and boring and you do not want to read any more. It is an easy read but there is a lot of vocabulary you should know. This story was classified for 20 years. There is not that much information in some chapters but other chapter takes for ever and just drags on and on. It talks about some battles with more description then others. The information is organized in chronological order. I was not a big fan of this book but I never did like historical fiction. If you like historical fiction you should try this book. The best parts were the inspiring action packed battles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    I read this book in my college english class, I love this author

    I read this book in my college english class, I love this author! Great insight story of WW2, great details of the aftermath with what this soldier has seen and has whitnessed of being a navajo, and joining the u.s. marine's, what his dream was, and how he accomplished it! If you have had a member of your family in the marines, or yourself are in it. Read this book! It's a great story.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    I remember picking this book up randomly at my school. So I was

    I remember picking this book up randomly at my school. So I was surprised about how enjoyable it was.

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  • Posted December 13, 2010

    Navajo Marines in the Pacific

    Code Talker is probably one of my favorite World War 11 novels ever. I really liked the suspense of how of the journey that Navajo Ned Begay (main character) when he was just a little boy growing up in a missionary school to then in the Pacific Ocean dodging bullets and sending messages in their sacred language. While Ned is in the Pacific in Japanese territory, we see through his eyes on how things are for him and his fellow comrades in war. Some things that Ned encounters may be happy and peaceful or scary when Ned becomes in a life or death situation which in my opinion makes a great thrilling book and keeps you wondering on what is going to happen next. I truly recommend this books to anyone who likes adventure, thrill, mystery, or likes to read about World War 11 books.

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  • Posted October 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Navajo Warriors

    The story is about Navajo Marines of World War Two. This book isn't for little kids it is an older kids' book. And the book is a great book to read especially if you like World War 2 and Navajo subjects then this is a book for you.

    It is about a Navajo boy who is sent to a white school and is forbidden to talk his native talk. He is also told that Navajos are bad and worthless. Until Pearl Harbor was bombed Navajos were thought of in that way. When they went to war they had codes and the Japanese had broken all their codes so they used a Navajo man for an assignment and they decided that they were going to use Navajos. When he is fifteen he goes and enlists in the army and he becomes a code talker during World War 2. I am judging the book by how good it is and what I am interested in. My great grandpa fought in World War 2 and I've been interested ever since.

    I have been into World War 2 books for a while and one of them I loved the most is called Elephant Run and it is about a boy that lived at Pearl Harbor. When they bombed it his mom sent him to live with his dad in a rain forest. As soon as he gets there the Japanese take over the island and take his dad to a prison camp while him and his friend Mya is forced to work for the general around the house. As they make a daring run on an elephant it is truly a good book.

    So overall Code Talker is a great book that people should read. I rate this five out of five and it is one of the best books I have ever read. It is hard for me to find a book I will actually read and enjoy and this was one of the few of them and I wish the book wouldn't have ever ended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    One of the most exciting books I have read yet

    When I first bought this book at my book fair I thought it was just a cool looking book. Then I started reading it and found that it was a really great book. I hate reading books normally and very few books catch my attention... When I read the first few para. of Code Talkers I couldn't put it down. Every page had something else on it that made me want to keep reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    Ned Begay knows he¿s going to be a Marine in World War II, but doesn¿t know how big a job he¿s going to have that involves his sacred language. Ned becomes a Marine, and his job is as a code talker. He gets shipped from island to island, sending and receiving messages. Ned is in some brutal combat but survives, and so does America as it defeats Japan. This is a great story of a boy who was taught that his native language was no good, but that very same language helps win World War II. I¿d recommend this to anyone who loves vivid descriptions of war and a terrific story. This book does an awesome job of showing how scary war can be. In World War II, the Japanese often did banzai attacks at night. Banzai attacks are where soldiers sprint with anything that could possibly hurt someone, and don¿t stop until the enemy is dead or the soldiers are all dead. Another example is when Ned, the main character, was running with his best friend, Georgia Boy. And then Georgia Boy got shot in the neck by a Japanese bullet. In 1929, the Red Cross created rules that said captured prisoners of war had to be fed and housed in a humane way. But Japan didn¿t agree to those rules, so the prisoners who were captured by Japan were forced into slave labor, starved, and beaten. I like how code talkers, who are Navajo Indians, were very important in the war, which made Ned very happy. One of the reasons it makes him so happy is because in boarding school, he was taught that his native heritage was worthless and dumb. The Navajos in the war would talk in a secret code to one another that the Japanese couldn¿t understand. Unfortunately, at the end, Ned walks into a bar and the bartender won¿t serve him just because he¿s Navajo. Ned is very disappointed because he worked so hard for America, and yet he¿s still looked at as though he¿s not an equal to white people. It¿s interesting how the Japanese have very different beliefs from Americans. One of the Japanese thoughts was that when you do a kamikaze, you die with pride. A kamikaze is when a plane flies into a boat, usually an aircraft carrier, and tries to kill everyone on the boat even if it means dying themselves. In Iwo Jima, a tiny island, the Japanese pasted on every pillbox (a minor fortress in warfare) that the goal for the Japanese is to kill ten enemy soldiers before they die. A Japanese belief is to never surrender. When Emperor Hirohito surrendered, it was a complete shock to the Japanese. This awesome war book shows how even people who are treated like dirt can turn out to be heroes. And Ned certainly was a hero. Ned also had a huge amount of self-control. He couldn¿t tell anyone about being a code talker until later after the war. I love how this is almost like an underdog story that shows no matter what race you are, you can still do something incredible. I¿d recommend this book to anyone who likes a super action book. S.Howard

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2008

    page turner!

    I was told to read this book by a friend. And the book really shows the strength and courage of some of the Navojos during the tough times of World War ll. It gave me chills to know that even though some of the minorities of America were still able and willing to make a difference in the right direction. They may not have been appreciated at first, but what these brave men did cannot be downplayed. This book gives you a firsthand experience of one of the real reasons that the U.S. was succesful during World War ll.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2008

    Just try it!

    The Navajo Marines helped save the second world war. But how? This story tells you through the eyes of a Najaho Code talker named Ned Begay'Kii Yazhi'who lives on the reservation of Arizona. Ned must start his life in the mission schools on the rez. Then in an instand a war breaks out! A war some have lived through and some are about to. The second worls war. At the under age for fighting in the war Ned Begay must convince his parents to let him in the war, but they debate. After months a school Ned finally get his prayers answered. Ned gets sent to a training camp to prepare him for the war. After months of training Ned shiped out to Hawaii. There something happens that he didn't expect. They are teachinf the Navajo Marines the sacret language of Navajo! The same language they would get yelled at and whipped at in mission school. Later after being granted the honnors of a Code Talker. Ned gets shipped out to the islands on Japan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    Outstanding book

    'Code Talker' By Joseph Bruchac is an exciting and informal book about the Navajo code talkers of World War Two, putting it in front view of what these Marines experienced during WW2. An outstanding book, I would recommend this book to anyone.

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