Treasure Chest
The Big Wander
The Big Wander

Videos: The old John Ford westerns filmed in Monument Valley right around Goulding's Trading Post were much of what inspired Clay's “big wander” trip. You might want to show a few brief clips of one or more of those, to set the scene. My first choice would be Fort Apache, with Henry Fonda and John Wayne. Others: Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

You’ll find a wealth of information online about the Navajo people. These two books have been valuable resources for me: The Book of the Navajo by Raymond Friday Locke and Masked Gods: Navajo and Pueblo Ceremonialism, by Frank Waters.

The letters of a young artist and adventurer, Everett Ruess, were an inspiration to me as I wrote this story. Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty, by W.L. Rusho, tells his story and contains many of his letters.


Bullet Navajo code talkers: This is a fascinating and important study area for social studies. The code talkers were Navajo soldiers who made a tremendous and unique contribution to the war effort in World War II. The Japanese were unable to break U.S. codes which had been developed using the Navajo language.
Bullet Have kids look for pictures and books showing the dramatic redrock canyon country of southeast Utah, recently designated as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Discuss the merits of preserving these kinds of places.
Bullet Lake Powell is a huge reservoir near Page, Arizona, created by Glen Canyon Dam. Its construction drowned a hundred unique side canyons upstream of the dam, when the lake filled. Discuss pros and cons, environmental and economic issues, etc. One of the reasons I set this story in l962 was that it was the last summer the Colorado River was running free through Glen Canyon, before it was buried underwater by the rising waters behind the dam. There is a beautiful book on this, The Place No One Knew, with stunning photographs by Eliot Porter of Glen Canyon.
Bullet Look into wild horses and burros, and what's happening with them in the West today.
Bullet Traditional foods of the Navajo and other Southwestern peoples. If you do decide to try making fry bread, be really careful with the hot oil that you drop the dough into. I met a teacher who had burned himself on this project.
Bullet Heroes: Clay definitely had heroes—President Kennedy, John Wayne, the astronauts. Who are kids' heroes today? What do they think about having heroes?
Resources and Ideas for Teaching Will's Novels
Bearstone and
Changes in Latitudes
Crossing the Wire
Downriver and
River Thunder
Far North
Ghost Canoe
Go Big or Go Home
Jackie's Wild Seattle
Jason's Gold and
Down the Yukon
Kokopelli's Flute
Leaving Protection
The Maze
Never Say Die
Take Me to the River
Wild Man Island
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