Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book review: Navajo Code Talkers, by Nathan Aaseng

Historical books for young adults have the potential to be the best of all worlds in nonfiction, mixing accessibility with accuracy.

This is one that succeeds. At only 114 pages including index, it’s an easy read. In those pages, it packs a lot of information about the important Navajo contribution to the United States’ WWII effort.

Along with detailing specific instances where the Code Talkers helped the war effort, the book is also full of information about the heritage, culture, and worldviews of the Navajo who volunteered, and the ways other viewed them. For instance, did you know that the Navajo language was sometimes mistaken for Japanese by American soldiers when they heard it over the radio? Because the Code Talkers project was kept so secret, the soldiers who worked with the Navajos in their units often had no clue what they were doing—only that it was important to the war effort. And while there were occasional misunderstandings between Navajo culture and the belegaana (Navajo name for those of European extraction), for the most part all the fellow soldiers got along very well.

There are a good number of quality black and white photographs scattered through the text, letting the reader get a glimpse of these men who went to war. It includes a foreword by Roy O. Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, which I took to be a stamp of approval on the accuracy and research involved.

This book is a very good read. Whether you're a young person or an adult, you can learn a lot from this book. I don't hesitate to recommend it.

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