Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code:
A Navajo Code Talkers Story
by Joseph Bruchac ill Liz Amini-Holmes
Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story is an inspiring retelling of the life, courage and important contributions of Chester Nez.
Joseph Bruchac organizes Nez's story chronologically, using descriptive names of Navajo months as page headings.
In October 1929, Month of Small Wind, an eight-year-old boy named Betoli leaves his family home to attend boarding school. Immediately he is stripped of his Navajo name and given the English name of Chester. The school's objective is to help Navajo children "survive in the white man's world." They accomplish this by systematically removing and erasing all traces of Navajo language, religion, and culture.
While Chester successfully masters the English language, he loves and longs for the language and traditions of his people. He makes a concerted effort to retain his Native tongue and his connection Navajo heritage.
In 1941, during the Month of Crusted Snow, tenth grade student Chester Nez resolves to serve his country. Along with a group of Navajo men who speak both English and Navajo, he develops an unbreakable code developed to relay information in the Pacific Theater during World War II. This code becomes a key communication component used by the U.S, military.
Using simple, yet powerful language Bruchac conveys the majesty and enduring strength of Navajo religion, traditions, and language. The book makes it clear that pride in his heritage and a determination to retain his identity and language is a defining aspect of Chester Nez’s character.
Illustrations by Liz Amini-Holmes boldly fill each page with images that are both realistic and highly symbolic. Large black birds flying off with strands of his shorn locks is graphically arresting. Likewise, the two-page spread with a praying altar boy facing a boy praying outside a Hogan stand in stark contrast to each other.