Soldier Sister, Fly Home

Nancy Bo Flood, illus. by Shonto Begay. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-58089-702-0
In this slender, elegant novel from Flood (No Name Baby), half-Navajo/half-white Tess, 13, feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. Schoolmates at her Flagstaff boarding school call her names like Pokeyhontas; on the reservation she looks—and sometimes feels—more white than Navajo. Set against the backdrop of the Iraq War (the book opens with a memorial ceremony for a young Navajo woman killed in combat, and Tess’s beloved older sister, Gaby, is deployed soon after), the book successfully presents Tess’s shifting emotions as she grapples with the vicissitudes of a close sibling relationship, revels in her daily runs in the desert, and struggles to bond with a temperamental horse. Navajo traditions, ceremonies, and family relationships are described with gentle reverence; even the butchering of an ewe is depicted as a beautiful act. Navajo words and phrases are used throughout in a fashion that always feels natural. Flood lived and taught on the Navajo Nation for 15 years, and this quietly moving story of Tess’s growing maturity as she searches for her cultural identity resounds with authenticity. Art not seen by PW. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2016
Release date: 08/23/2016
Genre: Children's
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