Race to the Sun

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Race to the Sun Book Poster Image
Fun girl hero drives fast-paced, modern take on Navajo myth.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is Navajo mythology that many readers will not be familiar with. A glossary helps with names and pronunciations of gods, monsters, and terms. Nizhoni visits a hogan, or traditional Navajo house, and makes fry bread. Plus an explanation about how mirrors are made.

Positive Messages

Family and friends are more important than fame or notoriety. Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts. Reinforces values of respecting and honoring ancestors and cultural traditions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the beginning of the story, Nizhoni, a seventh-grader, wants to be a hero so she can be admired by everyone at school. As she faces trials, Nizhoni realizes that she really wants to be a hero so she can protect those closest to her and cares less about the fame. She also deals with anger about her missing mother with the help of her friend, Davery. Characters here are Navajo, and Davery is half-African American, half-Navajo.


Some gory moments in battles against flying buzzard monsters: a hand holding a gun is chopped off, a cut-open buzzard rains intestines, and buzzards are burned and shot in the eyeballs. A boy is bullied, chased, and beaten up, and the main character is threatened with a knife. Characters are kidnaped or go missing. Much talk of the main characters' mom abandoning the family when she was young.


Adults kiss while everyone looks away.


"Badass" used twice.


Practically an ad for Hot Cheetos since a boy in the story adores them. Also repeated mentions of Spam and the Spider-Man franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Race to the Sun is a modern take on Navajo mythology from the publisher Rick Riordan Presents. Riordan published many Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian mythology stories for kids starting with Percy Jackson and has since started an imprint to highlight authors from different cultures writing about mythology. This is Native American author Rebecca Roanhorse's first book for kids, but she has a number of lauded adult books in the fantasy genre. If kids are new to Navajo mythology, they'll learn quite a bit here, and are helped along by a glossary. Expect a few splashes of gory violence, especially when giant buzzard monsters show up. A hand holding a gun is chopped off, a cut-open buzzard rains intestines, and buzzards are burned and shot in the eyeballs. Also, characters are kidnaped or go missing; a boy is bullied, chased, and beaten up; and the main character, Nizhoni, is threatened with a knife. There's also much talk about Nizhoni's mom abandoning the family when she was young, and the seventh grader learns to deal with her anger over it. She also learns that her big dream of being famous among her classmates is not nearly as important as standing up and protecting her own family.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCaitDalzell April 30, 2020

Love this book, but the review needs a correction!

This is a wonderful book and the review does a good job of summing it up, but requires a correction about the author. Rebecca Roanhorse explains in a note after... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In RACE TO THE SUN, Nizhoni sees a monster at her basketball game that no one else can see: a man in a suit with red eyes. She screams when he stares at her, takes a ball to the face, and ends up embarrassed on the court with a bloody nose and a lost game. On the way home she tells her younger brother, Mac, what she saw. And when they get home, Dad introduces that same monster as his new boss who's invited them out to dinner. When Nizhoni warns her dad, she's punished for it, and starts to think she's imagining things, especially when a horned toad on her bookshelf starts to speak to her in a dream about a Spider Woman who can get her a map to weapons to fight the monster. She's not sure the dream's real until she comes home from school and finds that her dad has been kidnapped. Now she has to get to Spider Woman fast and needs help from her brother, Mac, and her best friend, Davery.

Is it any good?

This modernized Navajo mythology with a fun girl hero races along as the title implies, but sometimes a bit too fast for the story to have a deeper impact on readers. It starts great, with the main character, seventh grade Nizhoni, humiliated on the basketball court when she's frightened by a monster no one else sees. And of course that won't be the last we see of that monster: Say hello to Dad's new boss. The setup and start of the quest to save Dad with Nizhoni's enthusiastic and naive younger brother (with some secret powers of his own) and her brainy best friend races along to great effect. Readers will be hooked.

When the quest really gets rolling and readers, many of them unfamiliar with this amazing mythology, are thrust into the supernatural realms, Race to the Sun could have slowed down. Author Rebecca Roanhorse could have done more world building here so readers could really see the scenery and godly creatures. And every time someone is lost during Nizhoni's trials, she rushes ahead to the next trial without much time for reflection or the natural impulse to do some frantic searching. Still, the ending of the story, though it comes quickly, is satisfying, and readers will be glad they discovered this cool Navajo world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about Navajo mythology in Race to the Sun. How is it different from other mythologies you may know more about? What is the same?

  • Many kids want to be famous, especially in the age of social media. Why does Nizhoni want to be famous? Why does she change her mind?

  • Would you read more Navajo mythology or more adventures with Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and mythology

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate