cover image The Navajo Code Talkers

The Navajo Code Talkers

J. Patrick Lewis, illus. by Gary Kelley. Creative Editions, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56846-295-0

Lewis and Kelley offer a third entry in their World War series, following And the Soldiers Sang and Harlem Hellfighters, this time focusing on the Navajo soldiers who served as code talkers in WWII. Initial pages recount the tribe's troubled history with the U.S. government, and a procession of defeated Navajo men, women, and children wends across the bottom of consecutive spreads to show the tribe's forced march to a reservation. Kelley's pastels, housed within individual panels for a graphic novel%E2%80%93like effect, use drab hues and dark, angular outlines to evoke a somber mood. The artwork also depicts realistic images of war: battle scenes include sword combat and a skull peering out from under an army helmet. Amid the fighting, code talkers use their native language to send and receive top-secret communications ("Apart from its beauty, the Navajo tongue is unique, enormously difficult, and unwritten.... the ultimate unbreakable wartime code"). It's a fine introduction to the ways that indigenous peoples aided the war effort, which doesn't sugarcoat the injustices they suffered, including the "depravity" of the Long Walk that removed the Navajo from their home. Ages 7%E2%80%939. (Aug.)