Healer of the Water Monster

Healer of the Water Monster cover
Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

By Brian Young
Heartdrum / HarperCollins, 2021
368 pages

Ages 8-12

Nathan, 11, is spending a few summer weeks with his paternal grandmother, Nali, who lives in a mobile home on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. When he’s saved while lost in the desert by an ailing water monster, Nathan promises to do what he can to heal the Holy Being, whom Nathan calls Pond. Nathan is helped by a talking lizard, who works with Pond to teach Nathan everything he needs to know for his journey to the Third World to meet with Mother Water Monster and retrieve medicine for Pond. At the same time, Nathan’s Uncle Jet, a veteran, is struggling with depression and drinking, but reluctant to participate in an N’dáá, a traditional ceremony also known as Enemy Way, that Nali is trying to arrange with their clan’s hataałii (medicine man) . The theme of healing in a story firmly grounded in Navajo traditions and culture and integrating the Navajo language throughout extends to the earth, as Nathan discovers Pond is suffering from radiation sickness from a polluted lake. The seamless blending of traditional beliefs and practices with contemporary life extends from Nathan’s interests and identity—including his passion for video games and hints that he has a future as a traditional healer—to the fact that Uncle Jet’s journey to healing is supported by both traditional and modern medicine. Appealing characters, a captivating plot, and dashes of humor all buoy a novel followed by a thoughtful and thought-provoking author’s note. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center