Billie has lived with her great-aunt ever since her mom passed away and her dad left. Billie's big brother, Leo, is about to leave, too, for the warfront. But first, she gets one more weekend with him at the ranch.
Billie's surprised when Leo brings home a fellow Marine from boot camp, Denny. She has so much to ask Leo -- about losing her best friend and trying to find their father -- but Denny, who is Navajo, or Diné, comes with something special: a gorgeous, but injured, stray dog. As Billie cares for the dog, whom they name Bear, she and Bear grow deeply attached to each other.
Soon enough, it's time for Leo and Denny, a Navajo Code Talker, to ship out. Billie does her part for the war effort, but she worries whether Leo and Denny will make it home, whether she'll find a new friend, and if her father will ever come back. Can Bear help Billie -- and Denny -- find what's most important?
A powerful tale about unsung heroism on the WWII battlefield and the home front.
Kirby Larson is the acclaimed author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky
; its sequel, Hattie Ever After
; The Friendship Doll
; Dear America: The Fences Between Us
, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction; Liberty
; Code Word Courage
; Audacity Jones to the Rescue
; and its sequel, Audacity Jones Steals the Show
. She has also cowritten the award-winning picture books Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle
. She lives in Washington with her husband and Winston the Wonder Dog.
- ! 'The door swung open and Denny''s knee jostled the desk as he hopped to attention.
Eighteen sets of chair legs scraped the floor while an Anglo officer strode in,
followed by two other Marines. Both Diné.
The Anglo introduced himself in
Navajo. Not fluent Navajo, but good enough to get by at the trading post. "Take
a seat, gentlemen," Sergeant Johnston ordered.
They did as instructed.
Anglo turned to one of the Diné officers. "Sergeant Manuelito, would you please
get the door?"
Manuelito pulled a set of keys from his pocket and efficiently,
purposefully, locked the classroom. The tumbler thunked like an animal trap.
shot a glance over at Jesse, whose forehead wrinkled imperceptibly.
Johnston picked up a pointer and tapped at the list of words on the blackboard.
what''s this?" The pointer landed on ga-gih.
"Crow," Denny answered.
what it meant yesterday. Today, it means patrol plane." The pointer kept tapping.
Tas-chizzie, swallow, was a torpedo plane. Atsah, eagle, a transport
As the sergeant went down the list, Denny''s heart beat faster. It
was a code. The Navajo language was the basis of a code. That''s why he was here.
He glanced around the room. That''s why they were all here.
cleared his throat. "From this moment on, nothing that you do or hear in this room
leaves this room. Under penalty of imprisonment. Nothing." He stared down the rows
of Marines. "Do I make myself clear?"
Despite the hodgepodge of feelings
he was experiencing -– bewilderment, curiosity, fear -- Denny had been in the Marines
long enough to know there was only one possible response to the sergeant''s question.
At the top of his lungs, he answered with the rest of the men: "Yes, sir!"'