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

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

by Joseph Bruchac

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"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.

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

"Nonsensational and accurate, Bruchac's tale is quietly inspiring..."—
School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101664803
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/06/2006
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 122,026
File size: 504 KB
Age Range: 12 Years

About 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

Read an Excerpt


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.


The Arrow Over the Door

Children of the Longhouse

Eagle’s Song

The Heart of a Chief

The Winter People


A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two


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.


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.


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.


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.”

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

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Code Talker 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Mom-of-Five More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Boxer123 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not read very much at all. But this book i just could not put down. Also easy to understand too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Nina_Santana More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book giving the history of the Navajo as well as their service in world war II as code makes me want to hear the Navajo speak in their native language.
kayceel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My book group didn't like this - those who finished were bored by it. I felt it read too much like a nonfiction book that'd been last-minute turned into fiction. Felt as though the reader is being lectured to.
Bobby3457 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book describes how the Navajo Indians were a crucial part of world war two. They created the code that no other country could crack and helped us win the war in the Pacific. This book tells about a fictional caracter named Ned Begay who wants to go into the Marines to serve his country. He faces battle just like any other Marine. He learns that about every Indian has the same nickname in their squad, Chief. First this book starts by telling how a Navajo is treated at the Boarding School that many of them went to. They were not allowed to speak their native language, but they did when the teachers were not around. As Ned goes through school he becomes particullarly fond of history and the history of the Japanese. He still thought highly of them even when they bombed pearl harbor. This isn't exactly a book about war but it is about the Navajo's and what they did to contribute to their country especially.
serenasungclarke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this book started out well, but one-third of the way through, the narrator began just telling about the different battles and less about how this affected the Navajos and started droning on.
quirkylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bruchac is the "real deal". An American Indian and gifted storyteller, this is a narrative non-fiction work chronicling the Navajo Marines of World War II whose language was unbreakable by the Japanese. Their service was needed and accepted, but never celebrated or even acknowledged by the United States military for many years. An interesting insight into a different culture with a war backdrop. Liked this one back in my YA Lit class and still appreciate Bruchac's work.
Mparis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story told by a Navajo grandfather about his harrowing, yet gratifying experience as a Navajo code talker in WWII. Ned Begay grew up being forced to learn English in a boarding school. He joins the marines when they recruit 29 young Navajo men for a special mission. They develop a code, based on the Navajo language, that the Japanese will never break. We hear of his life in the War as he assists the war efforts with communications in Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.While it starts rather slow, this book is very interesting. For those who have read Chester Nez's memoirs and enjoyed it, this may be a good book to recommend to your children to allow them into the world of the Code Talkers. I learned so much about the life of the Navajo while reading both of these books. Classroom Connection: WWII, Navajo
caro488 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bruchac, Joseph, Code Talker, WWII Navajo boys lots of war history
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story of a largely unknown piece of World War II history ¿ the role of Navajo Indians in creating a secret code to keep military secrets out of the hands of the Japanese. The story begins with Ned Begay, a Navajo boy, going off to boarding school to learn English. In school, the Navajo children are treated badly by the white administrators and teachers, who insult them because of their heritage and try to get the children to forget the Navajo language and culture. However, when World War II breaks out, the Marines begin actively recruiting men who can speak both English and Navajo. Ned, who has to pretend he is older than he is in order to enlist, joins the Marines and becomes one of the secret code talkers, who use the Navajo language to create messages that the Japanese will not be able to understand if they intercept. Ned is soon shipped off to the Pacific and gives detailed accounts of the various battles there. Code Talker is a piece of fiction that reads almost like a memoir. This book is a great tool for learning history, for both children and adults, giving accounts that are not usually covered in introductory textbooks. Instead of focusing on what was going on in Europe during World War II, here we get to see what was happening in the Pacific side of the war and we learn about the covert code operation, which was not publicly released until a couple of decades after the war was finished. The book also covers other deep topics such as prejudice and stereotyping, providing fodder for interesting discussions. This book is dense to read though, and I would recommend taking your time with this one, letting the information sink in before barreling on to the next chapter.
melissavenable on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in the voice of a grandfather passing along his story to his grandchildren, this novel introduces life on a reservation, Indian Schools, Army induction and training... Bruchac also presents key Pacific battles of WWII from the perspective of a foot soldier responsible for communication through the Navajo language. The use of the code itself is interesting, but the story of Ned Begay is even more so.
alice443 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of the Navajo code talkers in WWII. It is told by as a first person narrative, with an emphasis on the irony of using the Navajo language decried by white teachers as the epitome of useless, to defend America. The tale is by a grandfather to his grandchildren, to us who listen with respect. The historicity of the story is fascinating and I definitely learned a great deal about the code talkers, but the very success of the stylistic choice kept it from being great. Sometimes it just felt a little to real like a beloved grandfather telling a story, rather than a well crafted tale,
corydickason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought the novel dealt deftly -- and rarely heavy-handedly -- with the weighty identity issues faced by a Navajo boy in an Indian school and with the horrible things seen by Marines during the second World War. I would use this book as part of a unit on WWII to broaden students' understanding of the impact of the war beyond the Holocaust.
MrsHillReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at a part of history that is relatively unknown...loved reading about how something that was "bad" became a great code during the war.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All his life Ned Begay has been told that being Navajo is bad. At the mission school, all the Navajos are told to forget their language, to forget everything about being Navajo. Speaking English and emulating the white man is the only way to get ahead, or so they are told. However, when World War II breaks out, Ned learns that the Marines are actively recruiting Navajos. For the first time, Americans are in need of Navajos and their language. An unbreakable code is being developed using the Navajo language and the Marines are recruiting men fluent in Navajo and English to come and fight the Japanese. Ned Begay is one of these men. Although he is only 16, he enlists in the Marines and starts a journey both wonderful and terrible.Now, I must confess that I don't like war books. I can see how this novel would be appealing to some. There is a lot of action, many descriptions of battle scenes in the Pacific. I think I might have liked it better if the novel had had a different format. The first person didn't do it for me and I felt like it read more like dry non-fiction than the riveting novel it could have been. Bruchac himself confesses in the author's note that he crammed a lot of facts into the book. I did find it enlightening. But I think it could have been more entertaining.That said, Bruchac is one of the most reliable authors I know for fiction about Native Americans. He includes a length author's note talking about his research and the real Navajo code talkers. He also includes a fairly extensive bibliography.It's an important book, for sure, but to me it read more like a book that would be assigned in school rather than one I would ever pick up for pleasure.
dretallick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loved the book. it tells the story of being a Navajo code translator in world war 2. The book talks about the fights he and his fellow solders went through. The Navajo language was used through the comunications in world war 2 because it was the only language that the Japaneses could not break.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago