Billie has lived with her great-aunt ever since her mom passed away and her dad left. Billie's big brother, Leo, is about to leave, too, for the warfront. But first, she gets one more weekend with him at the ranch.
Billie's surprised when Leo brings home a fellow Marine from boot camp, Denny. She has so much to ask Leo -- about losing her best friend and trying to find their father -- but Denny, who is Navajo, or Diné, comes with something special: a gorgeous, but injured, stray dog. As Billie cares for the dog, whom they name Bear, she and Bear grow deeply attached to each other.
Soon enough, it's time for Leo and Denny, a Navajo Code Talker, to ship out. Billie does her part for the war effort, but she worries whether Leo and Denny will make it home, whether she'll find a new friend, and if her father will ever come back. Can Bear help Billie -- and Denny -- find what's most important?
A powerful tale about unsung heroism on the WWII battlefield and the home front.
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The door swung open and Denny's knee jostled the desk as he hopped to attention. Eighteen sets of chair legs scraped the floor while an Anglo officer strode in, followed by two other Marines. Both Diné.The Anglo introduced himself in Navajo. Not fluent Navajo, but good enough to get by at the trading post. "Take a seat, gentlemen," Sergeant Johnston ordered.They did as instructed.The Anglo turned to one of the Diné officers. "Sergeant Manuelito, would you please get the door?"Manuelito pulled a set of keys from his pocket and efficiently, purposefully, locked the classroom. The tumbler thunked like an animal trap.Denny shot a glance over at Jesse, whose forehead wrinkled imperceptibly.Sergeant Johnston picked up a pointer and tapped at the list of words on the blackboard."Begay, what's this?" The pointer landed on ga-gih."Crow," Denny answered."That's what it meant yesterday. Today, it means patrol plane." The pointer kept tapping. Tas-chizzie, swallow, was a torpedo plane. Atsah, eagle, a transport plane.As the sergeant went down the list, Denny's heart beat faster. It was a code. The Navajo language was the basis of a code. That's why he was here. He glanced around the room. That's why they were all here.Sergeant Johnston cleared his throat. "From this moment on, nothing that you do or hear in this room leaves this room. Under penalty of imprisonment. Nothing." He stared down the rows of Marines. "Do I make myself clear?"Despite the hodgepodge of feelings he was experiencing -- bewilderment, curiosity, fear -- Denny had been in the Marines long enough to know there was only one possible response to the sergeant's question. At the top of his lungs, he answered with the rest of the men: "Yes, sir!"