Monday, October 5, 2020

Race to the Sun - Rebecca Roanhorse

Summary: Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says "Run!", the siblings and Nizhoni's best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . . (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: I am super excited to tell you about today’s book. I really enjoy learning about different cultures, and one of my fave things to learn about is the different Native American cultures in America. I appreciate any native cultures, really, and have enjoyed reading many different stories from many different native cultures. It’s truly an enlightening experience. This is a “Rick Riordan Presents” book, and Riordan wrote the foreword. Something he wrote really resonated with me, “For all kids, reading about other cultures’ mythologies is a way to expand their imagination and their empathy. There’s an old Czech proverb: Learn a new language, gain a new soul. Mythology is similar. The traditional sacred stories of every culture can offer us a new window onto the world—a new way of seeing and understanding.”

There are so many great things about this book. First of all, I think the main character, Nizhoni Begay, is super relatable. She has some difficult situations in her life along with the normal teenage dramas of everyday living, friends, school, etc. She is Navajo, and although proud of her heritage, is not super immersed in it. When it becomes apparent that she has more connection to her ancestors than she originally thought (i.e., she can detect monsters) it sends her on a quest that is not only challenging, it helps her understand her culture and her background. Roanhorse takes us along for the ride, and I loved reading about different cultural characters in the Navajo mythology. Although the story did not go into great depth into any of the different mythological characters she meets, it was a perfect segue to encourage kids to do a little digging and research to learn more about it.
Another great thing about this book—it’s funny. There are lots of parts that are sarcastic and amusing, and then some parts that are laugh out loud funny. There is also a sprinkling of scatological humor offerings to impress its intended audience. I love that Roanhorse was able to take a pretty serious topic with some Navajo words that are not easy to read for those who are unfamiliar, and make a fun and interesting story.

I read this book in just a few hours. The chapters (many whose titles are pretty funny, btw) are short and concise and make for a page-turning read. The story moves quickly, and the three main characters are easy to keep track of and understand what’s going on. The other chapters in the book are also interesting and fun, and although there were many of them, Roanhorse did a great job of making them memorable and simple enough that they didn’t interfere with the storyline, rather enhanced it.
I think there should be more books like this, and I think that more kids should read books like this. I love that this story celebrated Navajo culture, and had a Navajo protagonist who was awesome and also relatable. I think this type of representation is important, especially in today’s society where we are trying to teach children to not be color blind, but to be understanding and appreciate of others and their cultures and the variety and beauty that it brings to all of us.

I think this would be a great book for any JFic reader, especially one who enjoys adventure stories. If your kid (or you!) likes Rick Riordan, this book will totally be your jam and I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book does have some situations where the character’s lives are in danger, but it isn’t overly violent. Also, the main character’s mom left them when she was young and that is painful in the book.    

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