HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Quiet Boy
Authors: Lela and Rufus Waltrip
Illustrator: Theresa Kalab Smith
Publisher: Weekly Readers Book Club, reprinted in 1962
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Waltrip, Lela and Rufus. Quiet Boy (published in 1961 by David McKay Company Inc., New York City, NY; republished in 1962 by Weekly Readers Children’s Book Club). Twelve year old Chee Toddy, known by the nickname Quiet Boy, is a Navajo lad. He is the son of Ditsa Toddy, a Marine who was killed in the war when Quiet Boy was five, lives with his mother Nespah, ten year old sister Ti-Wi, eight year old brother Atchee, grandfather known as the Ancient One, and brown and white sheep dog Gogo, in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly, and attends seventh grade at the government school. One thing which he wants almost more than anything else is a radio, but Grandfather refuses such modern innovations. However, more serious problems develop. Some of their sheep, on which their livelihood depends, start disappearing.
Then, the whole area is covered by deep snow during a winter blizzard, and Ti-Wi comes down very ill. Quiet Boy is caught at school and tries to walk home but cannot make it. Will he ever get home? What will happen to his family during the storm? Is there anything that he can do to help them? This coming of age story about a young Indian boy describes his struggle to reconcile his Navajo ways with mainstream culture. “He loved his Navajo Land, its people, its schools, and its special events….Why couldn’t everyone, the Indian and the white man, follow the same trail? Why must it be one or the other?” Good question. Though this tale is about a Native American, people of all backgrounds—whether English, Scottish, Irish, Italian, Eastern European, African, Chinese, Japanese, or whatever—have had to learn how to reconcile maintaining their ancestral heritage with assimilating into our common American culture.
In the process of describing how Quiet Boy deals with this problem, the book reveals a lot about Navajo culture, and a friend’s father tells the children stories of the code-talkers in World War II. As he considers both the ways of his people and the ways of the big world, he concludes, “Some of the ways were good ways and some were not. It was the people mostly that made the different ways. Some were good and some were bad. Some of the people and their ways changed for the better, and some never did. It was the same with the Navajos and with the white people. Many of their ways had fused. Many of their trails were the same trails now.” While the plot moves along at a rather leisurely pace, it is written well enough to hold one’s interest. There is no bad language, and I really enjoyed reading it.