The Dreamcatcher Codes (Green Writers Press) by Barbara Newman is an eco-fantasy about four girls who come together for a great purpose: to save planet Earth from the destructive forces of climate change. In the course of this quest, appointed Earth Guardians Maia, Ava, Falcon and Yue not only discover their own exceptional capabilities but the strength and sustenance that comes from the bond of sisterhood. 

The four are tasked with tracking down the lost shards of the Crystal Horseshoe, an indigenous talisman that has shattered and scattered in pieces across the globe. The loss of this crystal places the planet in great peril, and it is up to these four young women to find and reunite the pieces. 

The Dreamcatcher Codes is a story of the connection between very different people, plants and creatures, traditions and ancestral history. It is a story that will inspire girls to dig deep within and ponder what empowers them. And it is a call to action for our planet that is far more persuasive because of its positive and hopeful nature. (Learn more about the book in my recent review.)

I recently had the opportunity to ask the author some questions about this book and its back story. Her answers are both fascinating and illuminating.


Q: What inspired you to write this book? 

A: I fell in love with the western landscape when I was filming a documentary on the American cowgirl. I was awed by its majesty, its ruggedness, the colors and how strong I felt when in its presence. The film was put on hold. Then I had a dream. I was standing in the desert, animal skin on my back, feet planted on the sand, inside a mandala — the exact circular logo of the film project. A windstorm came, lifted the logo, and it swirled into a spiral that came down to the right of me in another form. A book. Then came images. Four girls, coming from the four directions, flying horses, cowgirl superheroes saving the environment. Of course, the book has no cowgirl superheroes, but it is filled with girl power and cowgirl spirit. 

I’ve always advocated for girls’ leadership and the environment: it all came together in this story. 

Q: What are the main themes of The Dreamcatcher Codes?

A: The Dreamcatcher Codes builds cultural bridges, unity, and hope and illuminates two critical issues of our time: climate change and girls finding their voices and vital place in the world. The main themes are environmental stewardship, diversity and girl power, including courage/resilience, friendship/sisterhood and empathy. Identity, belonging and solidarity are other important themes. 

Q: Your book demonstrates an immense knowledge of the spirituality of the indigenous peoples. Can you please describe how you came to such a depth of knowledge?

A: I did a great deal of research and also have two very close friends who are Lakota and one who is Ojibwe. There were many conversations and opportunities to learn and experience their world. I have also traveled, walked sacred lands and found pieces of 3,000-year-old pottery, which of course, I left on the ground. Each time, I tried to imagine myself living during those times. (I do have a vivid imagination!)

I have been particularly drawn to the spiritual practices of the indigenous cultures, finding their reverence for and connection to nature quite powerful. This interest has spanned many years. 

This whole book was an immersion into science, culture, sound and place. It draws from my experience as a seeker of life’s big questions, which came in books, classes, walks in nature and too many weekend workshops to count.

Q: What should parents and teachers know about this book? 

A: There’s a great deal of science in this book, real science based on research. The reader will get a deeper look into the plant and animal kingdoms, geology, the oceans, the cosmos, the miraculous geometry that lives in a zinnia, or a beehive or on the scales of a turtle’s back. But the reader won’t feel like it’s a science lesson; they will see it as earth wisdom, the magic of the Universe. There are also the “codes,” which are the languages from ancient cultures, codes that are universal. And in the human realm, there’s diversity. From all walks of life, these girls come together with a common purpose — their threads are braided as they share human experiences. Also, this book lists resources; youth organizations like Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, Bioneers, Earth Guardians, and Jamie Margolin’s Zero Hour. 

Buy this book!

About Barbara Newman:

Barbara Newman always wanted to be a cowgirl. Growing up in New York didn’t stop her. She took that can-do spirit and became an award-winning global creative director, leaving an indelible mark on brand culture. After hearing an NPR story about the American cowgirl, she was so inspired that she left the ad world and found herself in Montana, Wyoming and Texas filming a documentary about their lives. An advocate for empowering girls, Barbara facilitates girls’ leadership programs and was part of the think tank that inspired the Fred Rogers Center for Children’s Media/Education. This is her first novel.