Monday, June 09, 2008


[This review may not be used (published elsewhere, online or in print) without written permission of its author, Beverly Slapin.]

Yazzie, Evangeline Parsons (Diné), Dzáni Yázhi Naazbaa’/Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk, color paintings by Irving Toddy (Diné), Navajo translation by the author. Salina Bookshelf, 2005, grades 3-up

Children, today more than ever, need to know the truths of history, even—no, especially—the ugly parts, the parts often deemed “not for children.” One of these truths is what has come to be known as the “Navajo Long Walk.” In 1863-1864, U.S. soldiers launched a scorched-earth offensive against Diné Bekayah, grabbed up some 8,000 Navajo women and men, children and old people, and marched them off to a barren concentration camp known as Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner). On this death march of hundreds of miles, more than 3,000 died of cold and starvation or were killed—the soldiers shot pregnant women and elderly people and all others who couldn’t keep up.

Dzáni Yázhi Naazbaa’ (Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home) is the young Naabeehó (Navajo) girl who survives the Long Walk and the four-year incarceration at Fort Sumner. Yazzie, to whom these family stories have been passed down, spares little detail—the terror of being forcibly taken from home; seeing the elderly and sick being shot as they fall behind; experiencing crop failure and having to rely on foreign, rotten and bug-infested rations; stealing food from the soldiers’ horses to allay starvation. But throughout the torture, persecution, hunger and homesickness, the parents and elders feed the children with perseverance and hope that come from the clan system and the prayers and stories, and the knowing that the land, culture and community will survive. And, indeed, Little Woman Warrior does come home. Toddy’s paintings, especially those of the land and the frightened children, perfectly complement this bilingual story, in Navajo and English, of endurance and strength.

Of all the published children’s stories about the Long Walk period, only Dzáni Yázhi Naazbaa’/Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home and Joe Bruchac’s and Shonto Begay’s Navajo Long Walk (National Geographic, 2002) tell these truths, and Little Woman Warrior is a perfect antidote to Scott O’Dell’s toxic Sing Down the Moon (Houghton Mifflin, 1970) and Ann Turner’s equally poisonous The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, A Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864 (Scholastic, 1999).—Beverly Slapin

[Note from Debbie: This book is available from Oyate.]


Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie:

I have a question regarding the note you always attach to Ms. Slapin's reviews, to the effect that they cannot be "used" without her permission.

I recently wrote a review for "Dzání Yázhí Naazbaa' over on, where I am a member (I credited your blog with recommending it, naturally). In my review, I noted that Ms. Slapin had reviewed this for Oyate, and believed it to be an "antidote" to the two other titles mentioned. I assumed that simply referencing Ms. Slapin's review is NOT the same thing as "using" it, but I wanted to double-check... The relevant text from my review is reproduced below:

"Awarded the 2007 Lacapa Honor Prize for Narrative, this bilingual picture book, presented in both Navajo and English, is cited by Oyate's Beverly Slapin as being a necessary "antidote" to other children's books on this topic, from Scott O'Dell's Sing Down the Moon to Ann Turner's The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, A Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864. Not having read either of these titles, I am unable to comment upon them, but an examination of the Wikipedia entry for the Navajo Long Walk (see link below), in which the death toll is listed as 200, when the actual total is believed to be more like 3,000, is convincing evidence that it isn't just children who need this "antidote."

I would appreciate your feedback...


Debbie Reese said...


It should say "published elsewhere" instead of "used." Anyone interested in publishing her reviews (online or in print) must secure her written permission. Her reviews can be cited, excerpted, properly acknowledged and attributed. As you describe your reference/use, I think you're fine.

Anonymous said...


thanks for that quick response! I figured that was what it meant, I had just never seen it expressed in quite that way, and wanted to be sure. Thanks again,