The 1863 forced displacement of thousands of Navajo known as the Long Walk serves as milieu for this tale of a teenage survivor.
Ripped abruptly by U.S. troops from his peaceful life in Canyon de Chelly, Danny endures verbal abuse, severe physical hardship, brutal beatings and even murder attempts on the trail with his Navajo neighbors. This continues after as well, at a Texas labor camp for Confederate Army prisoners. He never loses his spirit though and, with help from sympathetic whites, manages to escape at last—by sharing a coffin for a night and a day with a corpse. The nearly all-English dialogue makes it seem as if Danny understands more of what’s going on than he should, since he doesn’t speak that language. Nevertheless, Tingle, a Choctaw storyteller, spins a good yarn and, along with other respectful references to Navajo culture, ingeniously leverages its particular aversion to mention of or contact with the dead to magnify the terror of Danny’s climactic challenge.
Not an angry indictment, despite plenty of explicit brutality and prejudice, but a positive tribute to the fortitude of Danny and his Navajo community. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-13)