Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers

By Alysa Landry

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“Exciting, accessible, and very personal. The Code Talkers are named, and their experiences—their emotions, actions, dedication, and bravery—are palpable…. A remarkable true story, well told.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An informative book on an intriguing topic.”


“Diné peoples from diverse, complex communities have a history of strength, courage, wisdom, and beauty. The book Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers describes Mr. Begay’s strength, the Navajo Code Talkers' courage, how beautiful the Diné language is, and the wisdom that comes from a Navajo way of life.”

Lloyd L. Lee, author of Diné Identity in a Twentieth-Century World and director of the Center for Regional Studies at the University of New Mexico

“This book carries the voices and stories of Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay and fellow code talkers, illuminating a fuller context of Diné history and veterans‘ experiences before, during, and after World War II. Most importantly, this book reveals the challenges and courage of Navajo Code Talkers throughout their lives, including as leaders and advocates of their people and community. I’m the niece of two Navajo Code Talkers who have passed on; Begay’s story reminds me that our ancestors will continue to inspire youth and all generations.”

Farina King, author of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

The life story of this World War II Navajo Code Talker introduces middle-grade readers to an unforgettable person and offers a close perspective on aspects of Navajo (or Diné) history and culture.

Thomas H. Begay was one of the young Navajo men who, during World War II, invented and used a secret, unbreakable communications code based on their native Diné language to help win the war in the Pacific. Although the book includes anecdotes from other code talkers, its central narrative revolves around Begay. It tells his story, from his birth near the Navajo reservation, his childhood spent herding sheep, his adolescence in federally mandated boarding schools, and ultimately, his decision to enlist in the US Marine Corps.

Alysa Landry relies heavily on interviews with Begay, who, as of this writing, is in his late nineties and one of only three surviving code talkers. Begay’s own voice and sense of humor make this book particularly significant in that it is the only Code Talker biography for young readers told from a soldier’s perspective. Begay was involved with the book every step of the way, granting Landry unlimited access to his military documents, personal photos, and oral history. Additionally, Begay’s family contributed by reading and fact-checking the manuscript. This truly is a unique collaborative project.

Alysa Landry teaches English, journalism, and creative writing at the Navajo Nation’s Diné College. She has written for Navajo Times–Diné bi Naltsoos, Indian Country Today, the Searchlight New Mexico news organization, and other publications.   More info →


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Retail price: $15.95, T.
Release date: March 2023
54 illus. · 136 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: March 2023
54 illus. · 136 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: March 2023
54 illus. · 136 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers

“Codetalker Begay is a courageous, charismatic, and charitable warrior. His story will be carried by the four winds from generation to generation. May his passion for freedom live in all of us.”

Russell Begaye, former president of the Navajo Nation

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