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Author: Scaletta, Kurtis
After moving with his family to Liberia, Linus, 12, discovers he has a mystical connection with the black mamba, which he is told will give him some of the snake's characteristics.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.20
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 138338
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 3.70
Points: 15.0 Quiz: 57114
Common Core Standards
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 6 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Range of Reading & LEvel of Text Complexity
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Craft & Structure
School Library Journal (08/01/10)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (07/10)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 07/01/2010 His father’s transfer to a diplomatic post in Monrovia, Liberia, offers seventh-grader Linus Tuttle a chance to remake his image in a place where his reputation for perpetual anxiety has not preceded him. Encountering a machete-wielding Liberian on the airport tarmac does not initially bode well for his new resolve, even when it is not his family but a black mamba snake that is the object of the slashing blade. Linus is assured that black mambas are rarely seen in Monrovia, but experience soon teaches him otherwise; one of the deadly snakes has, in fact, been following him around. A Muslim street vendor, Sekou, suggests that the mamba may be Linus’ kaseng, an animal companion with which he has formed a sort of spiritual bond; he warns the boy that bond or no bond, the mamba is still a dangerous creature that should be treated with the utmost caution. Linus feels confident, even empowered, by his kaseng, and suddenly he’s able to chat up girls, skate down treacherous hills, sneak out of the apartment after dark, talk to strangers, and generally startle his family (especially his swaggering older brother, Law) with his newfound chutzpah. But he’s also overconfident as a snake handler, and treating the mamba a bit too much like a pet puts Law’s life in jeopardy. While the kaseng plotline is fully engrossing in its own right, the cast of secondary characters is generously developed, and the setting-which Scaletta knows intimately from his own childhood experience in Monrovia-is vividly drawn. Linus is an engaging narrator, with an open mind, a wry wit, one foot firmly planted in the 1982 American enclave within Monrovia, and the other adventurously inching its way out into the local community. EB - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 08/01/2010 Gr 5–8—Linus and his family have moved to Monrovia, Liberia, where his father works for the U.S. embassy. Shy and anxious, the 12-year-old keeps seeing a friendly black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the country, and he discovers that he has a kaseng, a connection with this particular animal. As weeks pass, Linus begins to treat the snake as a pet, hidden from everyone, and he feels that he is changing, becoming more confident and bold, perhaps taking on the mamba's characteristics. When he sets up a dry terrarium in his closet for it, he forgets that he is putting others in danger. With parents away, his older brother locks him out because he is having a party, and the inevitable occurs. Fortunately all ends well. In this absorbing novel, Linus is trying to find out who he is so he can leave behind the anxious child he recognizes in himself. Set in 1982, the novel portrays life in an American embassy, separate from and yet part of a city quite different from mainstream America. Scaletta writes about Monrovia in real terms, a city whose people, like those everywhere, span many income and social groups, but where poverty is a constant. The novel also looks head-on at various stereotypes of Africa. Though this well-written work occasionally moves slowly, the excellent characterization and the unusual setting will appeal to many readers.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA - Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 06/01/2010 After his family moves from Dayton to Liberia for his father’s American Embassy job, 12-year-old Linus sees an opportunity to reinvent himself and become more confident, less fearful. Although he is initially scared when a rare, deadly black mamba appears, the snake doesn’t harm him, and Linus soon finds himself increasingly attached to it. After secretly bringing it home, he finds himself growing more assertive. Then the snake escapes from his room, and the near-tragedy that ensues reminds Linus that the mamba is still a wild animal, and he must do what’s right and admit responsibility, despite the difficult consequences. Scaletta (Mudville, 2009) has created an appealing, well-written protagonist whose everyday and extraordinary experiences—from sibling and adjustment issues to his intriguing, mysterious connection with the snake—change his life in unexpected, positive ways. With lively, sometimes droll touches and a well-constructed 1980s setting, the engaging first-person narrative and array of diversely drawn characters further enliven the novel, which concludes with a personal author’s note that provides more story background. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.