A Boy Named Beckoning

The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

This story reveals the remarkable life of a Native American boy named Wassaja, or “Beckoning,” who was kidnapped from his Yavapai tribe and sold as a slave. Adopted by an Italian photographer in 1871 and renamed Carlos Montezuma, the young boy traveled throughout the Old West, bearing witness to the prejudice against and poor treatment of Native Americans. Carlos eventually became a doctor and leader for his people, calling out for their rights. Gina Capaldi’s exquisite paintings bring to life excerpts from Dr. Carlos Montezuma’s own letters describing his childhood experiences. The culminating portrait provides an inventive look back into history through the eyes of a Native American hero.

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 6
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Copyright 2008
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 4.7
Reading Counts! Points 4.0
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF007050, JNF007110, JNF018040
Dewey 970.004'97
Graphics 1-color illustrations, Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 880
Guided Reading Level S
ATOS Reading Level 6.0
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 120885
Accelerated Reader® Points 1.0
Features Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews


  • Book Links Best New Books for the Classroom, Winner, 2008
  • ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Short-listed, 2008
  • Norman A. Sugarman Children's Biography Award Nominee, Nominated, 2008
  • One Book AZ Finalist, Commended, 2008
  • Skipping Stones Book Award Honor, Commended, 2008
  • Western Writers of America Spur Awards Finalist, Commended, 2008
  • Orbis Pictus Award Recommended Book, Commended, 2008
  • Eureka! Children’s Book Award Silver Honor, Commended, 2008
  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award Honor, Commended, 2008
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2008
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Winner, 2008



“Capaldi uses Carlos’ own words, throughout, to draws the reader close. Attractive watercolor paintings in desert colors are the backdrop for the text, but the design cleverly uses photographs placed in the margins, which make a strong visual counterpoint to the art. An extensive afterword, a source note, and a bibliography add much for researchers. Fresh and fascinating.”

Library Media Connection

“Author Gina Capaldi does an admirable job of discussing the research process. This picture book for older readers will be a valued addition to the biography section of every public or school library.”
Library Media Connection

School Library Journal

“Solidly researched, the well-written text follows Wassaja (later renamed Carlos Montezuma) as he was sold into slavery and purchased by a kind Italian photographer. . . This title should be promoted for Native American, multicultural, and biography units.”
School Library Journal

Author, Illustrator: Gina Capaldi

As a freelance artist, Gina Capaldi has both written and illustrated books that range from nonfiction, educational, and picture books. Her favorite published works are her historical nonfiction, such as A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero. One of Gina's earlier books on American Indians has been recommended for elementary school social studies curriculum in the Virginia School systems. Gina Capaldi attended Malibu's Pepperdine University; Art Center & College of Design in Pasadena, California; and Pitzer College in Claremont, California.