To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, our Read Around the World book club for 3rd – 5th graders discussed the exciting middle grade fantasy/adventure book Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, published by Rick Riordan Presents.

Race to the Sun is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico and also Navajo Nation, which is a sovereign nation located within the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and which includes the majestic park known as Canyon de Chelly.

In the book, Nizhoni Begay, a Diné girl (Diné is the Navajo people’s own name for themselves), goes on a dangerous journey to meet figures from Diné/Navajo mythology and save her dad from the monsters who have kidnapped him. Her story not only introduces readers to various Diné gods and goddesses, like the Sun and Spider Woman; it also has many parallels to traditional Diné stories.

It’s an exciting book, and certainly the kids all gave it thumbs up! But my one complaint is that we don’t get enough context for the cultural and folkloric references — a lot of things go over the non-Navajo-reader’s head. So in today’s book club, we spent a lot of time unpacking those parallels with a telling of the main story Nizhoni’s story is based on: The Story of the Twins.

Here are my slides which include information about that story.

We also watched two videos:

Rick Riordan and Rebecca Roanhorse Talk Race to the Sun

See What Canyon Life is Like for a Navajo Pageant Winner


Our next book is The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye, and we’ll be discussing it on Friday, January 15, 2021.  There are copies of this book on hoopla and also some at the library. More paperbacks will be available for pickup within the next week. Email akolakowski [at] cityofpasadena [dot] net if you’d like to join and get a copy for checkout!