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A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero / by G. Capaldi

 


Title: A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero
Author:  Gina Capaldi
Illustrator:  Gina Capaldi
Publisher:  Carolrhoda Books
ISBN:  978-0-8225-7644-0
Year:  2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.1

Concepts:  human resources, land rights, scarcity, jobs, economics of education, discrimination

Review:  Gina Capaldi makes a substantial contribution with this book by raising children’s awareness of Dr. Carlos Montezuma’s long-term advocacy work for the rights of Native Americans in the United States.  Born in 1866 into a Yavapai family and tribe and named Wassaja, which means “beckoning,” he was captured as a five-year old boy during a brutal attack. When Wassaja’s captors tried to sell him as a slave, they came across Mr. Carlo Gentile, an Italian photographer who had immigrated to America in search of new work and adventure.  Although Mr. Gentile paid the captors silver money, he had no intention of treating the frightened boy as a slave and instead adopted him as his son. 

Much of the book relates their experiences traveling across America and their subsequent settling down in Chicago. Wassaja, by then renamed Carlos Montezuma, excelled in school and was accepted into the University of Illinois at the age of fourteen.  Three years later this talented young man gained admission into the Chicago Medical College. Scholarships helped with some of the costs, but Carlos also took on jobs sweeping floors and washing windows to pay for room and board.  After medical school, Dr. Montezuma undertook humanitarian work as an advocate for Native Americans in the United States.  He not only worked as a practicing doctor, but he also lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of Native Americans for land rights, better living conditions, more educational opportunities, and U.S. citizenship.

It was not until 1924, one year after Dr. Montezuma passed away, that Native Americans became legal citizens of the United States.  These inspiring and remarkable events in Dr. Montezuma’s life are told through the book’s narrative (which is based largely on a five-page letter that Dr. Montezuma wrote), sidebar facts underneath original photographs taken by Mr. Carlo Gentile, and a detailed afterword about Dr. Montezuma’s advocacy efforts. The book is also a treasure chest of economics lessons about investing in human resources, the economics of education, jobs, work, discrimination, and land rights.  Children will walk away with important lessons about how a small Yavapai boy became a reservation doctor who courageously fought to strengthen the civil rights and improve the economic opportunities of Native Americans.

Review by:
  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children.

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