Jake and I (Benji) were supposed to be reading and reviewing Bridge to Terabithia, but Jake had trouble getting a copy on short notice, so I read this one by myself in the meantime. I found myself wishing that I was rereading Terabithia very often.
If you’re reading the Newbery Winners through from the beginning, only a decade in you’ve already visited South America in Tales From SIlver Lands, China in Shen of the Sea, India in Gay Neck, Poland in Trumpeter of Krakow, Japan in The Cat Who Went to Heaven and now, in The Waterless Mountain, you’re visiting the Navaho tribes in the Western U.S. Despite, the racism in many of the novels, it does seem like the librarians on the committees in the 20’s and the 30’s were being proactive about exposing children to new cultures. Really, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign has been going on, though subtly, for quite a while.
That being said, this book is nice at some points. It’s interesting to see Navaho culture and customs through a young boy’s eyes, but mostly it’s just awful and unreadable. For a 200 page book, it reads incredibly slow. There’s a little bit of action in the middle, but it is resolved very passively in a “Meanwhile while life was going on as usual, our villain was arrested somewhere else” kind of way. That’s no way to write a book for children. I had lots of trouble getting through this book, and it seems from reviews that other adult readers did too. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I know of any kids who would enjoy this.
While I appreciate the early Newbery committees making an effort to expose kids to new cultures, I wish that a lot of the books weren’t so gosh-darned awful. Next book please.
2 out of five Newbery Pies.