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Healer of the water monster
Where is it?
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Trade Reviews
Publishers Weekly Review
This excellently wrought middle grade debut by Young (who is Diné/Navajo) centers 11-year-old Nathan Todacheenie, a Diné boy who, seeking to escape a vacation with his father and his father's girlfriend, ends up in a world of tradition and magic. At book's start, Nathan is being dropped off with his shinálí, called Nali for short; though there's no running water or electricity, her mobile home is on his beloved Dinetah/Diné homelands. Though Nathan doesn't look forward to a summer of chopping wood and zero phone reception, he does adore Nali, who has worked for years to keep her allotment of land and her traditions. When Nathan wanders into the desert in pursuit of the otherworldly horned toad who's filching corn seeds from Nathan's school experiment, he ends up on a quest to enter the Third World and save the Water Monster, a Holy Being that has been poisoned by radiation, as well as his uncle Jet, who has returned from military service in desperate need of a traditional ceremony that he doesn't want. Gentle, complex characters and flawed, loving human relationships lend depth to Young's worlds-spanning novel. Ages 8--12. Agent: Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (May)
Booklist Review
Young's compelling debut adds to the ranks of HarperCollins' new Heartdrum imprint, which focuses on Native creators and their stories. Here Nathan, a seemingly average Navajo boy, is dreading a "boring" summer with his nali, or grandmother. Her mobile home is cramped, and there's no electricity or phone service, but when her stories are brought to life after he comes across an ailing Water Monster in the desert--fresh out of the Navajo Creation Story--Nathan must figure out how best to aid the Holy Being. With the help of other Holy Beings, he embarks on a journey to protect his new companion, while also trying to help his troubled uncle Jet at home, who is suffering from his own difficult problems. As the title suggests, Nathan must help heal those he loves, and Young's narrative weaves traditional folklore, language, and mythos with modern emotion to craft a poignant tale of family, friendship, and protecting what you love most.
Horn Book Review
Eleven-year-old Nathan convinces his (divorced) parents to let him stay with his grandmother, Nali (a Navajo word used for paternal relationships, e.g. paternal grandparents), in New Mexico during the summer so he can work on a science experiment. Nali's mobile home does not have indoor plumbing or electricity, and although this means no cellphone for two months, it is better than spending time with his dad and Dad's girlfriend. After planting traditional as well as store-bought corn seeds for his experiment, Nathan notices that the traditional seeds are missing. One night he finds a horned toad taking his seeds and follows it into the desert. There he finds a sick water monster. At the same time, Uncle Jet has returned home from the Marines and needs healing as well. Nathan is committed to helping them both. To do that, Nathan must travel to the Third World to meet with the Mother Water Monster. Young does a great job of mixing Navajo lore with current concerns. The water monster represents the many bodies of water that are sick from pollution and overuse; many Navajo men and women have returned home from war sick like Uncle Jet. The book explores how healing must come from both modern and traditional medicines. A glossary helps readers understand the Navajo words and relationships that are important to the story. Nicholl Denice Montgomery July/August 2021 p.128(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
Nathan, a young Navajo boy from Phoenix, Arizona, goes on an epic hero's journey. On the surface, 11-year-old Nathan is like many other boys. His parents are divorced, and he's a little upset with his father. His paternal grandmother, Nali, is supportive, and he's eager to spend the summer with her on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, working on his science fair project. Nathan moves into her rural home, expecting a quiet summer. Instead, he has the adventure of a lifetime when he discovers something is eating Nali's heirloom seeds. Wandering into the desert, he encounters Pond, an ailing water monster. Adults cannot see Holy Beings from the creation stories, but as a child, Nathan can; with the help of a communication stone, he enters a world of Navajo cosmology. He brings a message to his grandmother about the Enemy Way and helps his Uncle Jet, a traumatized Marine veteran skeptical about his family's traditional ways, who is haunted by the shadow voice of an Ash Being. Healing--for the earth, the water monster, and Uncle Jet--is on the line as Nathan travels to the Third World to meet the most sacred Holy Being of all. The deeply grounded and original perspective of this story brings readers into both the worlds of Navajo blessing songs, rain songs, and traditional healing and everyday family relationships. Hands readers a meaningful new take on family love. (glossary, author's note) (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

American Indian Youth Literature Award Winner: Best Middle Grade Book! Brian Young's powerful debut novel tells of a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster--and comes to realize he's a hero at heart.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he's in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it's clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story--a Water Monster--in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to support Uncle Jet in healing from his own pain.

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

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