Twelve year old Nathan has two choices for his summer vacation. Go with his dad and girlfriend to Las Vegas (it was supposed to be just him and his dad). Or stay with his paternal grandmother, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation with no electricity, no wi-fi, and no running water. Despite the lack of modern conveniences, Nathan chooses to stay with his Nali. Shortly after Nathan arrives, his uncle Jet shows up, along with his many problems and an ash spirit who magnifies Jet’s feelings of worthlessness.
One night, Nathan gets lost in the desert. He meets a new friend, Water Monster, who helps him get home. In return, Nathan promises to help Water Monster, who is very sick. As events unfold, the Navajo stories that Nali has shared with Nathan come to life. Other Holy Beings help Nathan on his quest to heal Water Monster (and his uncle Jet), but in the end, Nathan must find the courage within himself to succeed. He must face his own insecurities, his feelings about his parents’ divorce and his dad’s girlfriend, and his uncle’s depression and alcoholism. Throughout his journey, Nathan learns to believe in himself and others and to keep his history and faith close.
For Navajo kids, Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young (Heartdrum 05/2021) provides a rare chance to see themselves as the hero in the pages of a book. For everyone else, it is a wonderful introduction to Navajo culture. Hopefully, Healer of the Water Monster will inspire others to bring their unique cultural stories to life and encourage the publication of such books. Everyone benefits from understanding and appreciating different cultures.
In this first book by Brian Young, the beauty of Navajo values and beliefs stand out, like the power of kindness and the importance of being good stewards of the earth. I hope this is only the first book in the series because I can’t wait to see where Nathan’s path takes him next. Be sure to get your signed copy at Books of Wonder.