In 1932, one of my favorite books of all time, Brave New World, was published. And in an almost entirely unrelated development, the award for best children's book went to Waterless Mountain, by Laura Adams Armer.
This book is an episodic novel of the Navajo people (standing then as yet another example of the ALSC's propensity for "ethnic" tales). A boy called Younger Brother, party inspired by his Uncle, a shaman, leaves his family and goes west, following the Turquoise Woman who went west to marry the sun. Along the way, he rescues a white boy, routs some horse thieves, and flies in a plane with “Grandfather,” the white trader who knows and loves the Navajo.
It’s all told in a very muted style, almost entirely from the Navajo point of view, so that ceremonies and scenes of nature do seem mystical and full of moment. It's rife with the type of poetic phrases for human experience, such as “my heart is making a new song,” that various American media have always found so compelling. It’s an interesting book, but I didn’t find it particularly engaging, probably because of its episodic plot: there’s no great struggle or resolution. And as we all learned in our freshman literature class, there is no Drama without Conflict. Or is that just the demanding way of the white man?
Recommended for children: Yes, especially for young boys who would appreciate the adventures of Younger Brother; but also for its message of the importance of a connection to nature.
Recommended for adults: Not really.