This fictionalized account of a young Native American boy's arduous journey is an excellent way to introduce a difficult period of American history. It's 1864 when young Kee's world turns upside-down. Soldiers burn his family's crop and drive away the livestock, and, with starvation the only alternative, he and thousands of other Navajo must leave Arizona and march nearly 300 miles east to an internment camp at Fort Sumner. The true story of the Navajo Long Walk is a devastating one: only after four years of confinement were the Navajo allowed to return to the portion of their homeland that is now the Navajo reservation.
This sensitive author focuses on Kee — a boy children will easily identify with — and his family, in particular his grandmother, known as Wise One. Yet Armstong does not shrink from detailing the harder parts of history: the forced surrender, a difficult journey, lack of adequate food and shelter, and deaths from starvation, disease, and homesickness. Although the ending gives no hint of the conflicts still to come, the Long Walk and the internment are vividly portrayed, and Armstrong's characters show the complexity and confusion of the situation.