The life story of this World War II Navajo Code Talker introduces middle-grade readers to an unforgettable person and offers a close perspective on aspects of Navajo (or Diné) history and culture.
Thomas H. Begay was one of the young Navajo men who, during World War II, invented and used a secret, unbreakable communications code based on their native Diné language to help win the war in the Pacific. Although the book includes anecdotes from other code talkers, its central narrative revolves around Begay. It tells his story, from his birth near the Navajo reservation, his childhood spent herding sheep, his adolescence in federally mandated boarding schools, and ultimately, his decision to enlist in the US Marine Corps.
Alysa Landry relies heavily on interviews with Begay, who, as of this writing, is in his late nineties and one of only three surviving code talkers. Begay’s own voice and sense of humor make this book particularly significant in that it is the only Code Talker biography for young readers told from a soldier’s perspective. Begay was involved with the book every step of the way, granting Landry unlimited access to his military documents, personal photos, and oral history. Additionally, Begay’s family contributed by reading and fact-checking the manuscript. This truly is a unique collaborative project.