Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code, by Joseph Bruchac and Liz Amini-Holmes

Written by Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

In 1929 Betoli, a Navajo eight year old boy, was sent to a boarding school. There they cut off his hair and told him he could no longer speak Navajo, his native language. They also changed his name to Chester. He longed for home and his family. When he went home for the summers he felt free and safe. Chester loved his people and their ways, but he knew he needed to function in the “white man’s” world. He learned English but always remembered his Navajo tongue. World War II started and some Marines came to the reservation to enlist Navajo men. They needed a language that could be used as a code so the Japanese could not break it. Chester and twenty-eight other Navajo men created a code that was unbreakable and it ultimately helped the U.S. win the war. A total of 400 Navajo soldiers were “code-talkers” during the war. They all had to keep the code secret even from their families.

This is a great book about respect for cultural differences and the strengths that they have to offer. Excellent read for older grades, especially those studying history. This book sheds light on a subject that many people do not know about.

Review by Pam Jensen, Bacchus Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-6

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story
Written by Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Albert Whitman & Company
32 pages
Release Date: April 3, 2018

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