Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code

A Navajo Code Talker's Story

As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester—and other Navajo men like him—was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war. This powerful picture book biography contains backmatter including a timeline and a portion of the Navajo code, and also depicts the life of an original Navajo code talker while capturing the importance of heritage.

  • 32 Pages
  • 8" x 10"
  • 9780807500071
  • April 2018

Buy from Albert Whitman

  • 9780807500088
  • April 2018

Other Places to Buy


  • A perfect, well-rounded historical story that will engage readers of all ages.

    - Kirkus Reviews starred review

  • Bruchac distills his extensive knowledge about the Navajo code talkers in this complex biography for young readers.

    - Booklist

  • A can’t-miss picture book biography.

    - School Library Journal

  • Bruchac movingly draws a parallel between the trauma of indigenous boarding schools and war. Amini-Holmes’s paintings capture the nightmarish atmosphere of both.

    - Publishers Weekly

Awards & Accolades

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection April 2018
  • 2018 Cybils Award Finalist, Elementary Non-Fiction
  • BRLA 2018 Southwest Book Award
  • 2020 Grand Canyon Award, Nonfiction Nominee
  • 2019 Southwest Books of the Year: Kid Pick


Liz Amini-Holmes


  • Accelerated Reader Points: 0.5
  • ATOS Level: 4.8