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The House of the Scorpion [YA Novel]
by Olgy Gary, Dec 26, 2002
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Available from the CCF StoreI began reading Nancy Farmer's 2002 National Book Award Winner, "The House of the Scorpion," on December 24th and couldn't put it down even in the midst of all that was going on that day. I kept going back to it, sneaking pages in at a time, and finally finished it by 3:30 a.m. on the morning of December 25th.

This young adult novel is easy enough for 5th graders to understand yet should prove a fascinating read for older readers as well. In The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer, a two-time Newbery honoree, brings us the world of genetic engineering up front and personal. Using her marvelous storytelling skills she presents the reader with the ethical and philosophical questions we all should be grappling with as human cloning moves forward. The reader is caught from the very first page where life is brought forth in the lab. The tiny little cell grows and Matt, the main character, is born.

Even if you are not a fantasy/science-fiction fan I think you would love this book. Matt is so real, so vulnerable, so amazing. And, with the newsbreaking story recently about the birth of a human clone, this story is not as sci-fi as one would wish it to be. I found myself, make that parts of the book. The writing was that poignant. And I so wanted Matt to make it...kept silently cheering him on throughout the entire 380 pages.

One of the things I especially loved about this book is that, although Matt is the main character and it is his book, his story, he is no superhero. Farmer lets the reader go totally inside this amazing young boy...we feel his joy, his pain, his fears, his lostness, his longings. He's the kid in all of us...trying to do his best and find his place in a world that often makes no sense. The House of the Scorpion has it all: science fiction based on good science, adventure, friendship, suspense, intrigue, murder and a hint of romance.
As if this wasn't enough to deliver a very satisfying read, Farmer also gives us a cast of well-developed secondary characters...along with a powerful evildoer you don't know whether to hate or love...because Matt doesn't know whether to hate or love this evil, evil person either. You get to know the surrounding characters and they become as real as Matt does.

It is an excellent read and one that should provide great discussions both inside and outside the classroom. A tremendous addition to classroom and home libraries everywhere! Read the book and let's talk about it on the CCF Forum. It's a July/December 2003 CCF Book Club selection.

Science fiction, fantasy and the human story all rolled into one phenomenal read. Don't miss it!

Publisher Marketing
Review Citations

Author: Nancy Farmer
ublisher: Atheneum Books, An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
Ages: 11-14.
Pub Date: September 2002

Publisher Marketing: To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. A room full of chicken litter with roaches for friends and old chicken bones for toys is considered good enough for him. But for El Patron, lord of a country called Opium -- a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself -- for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA. As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by sinister characters, including El Patron's power-hungry family. He is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards and by the mindless slaves of Opium, brain-dead eejits who toil in the poppy fields. And escape is no guarantee of freedom because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect. Around every turn in this vivid, futuristic adventure is a heart-stopping surprise with unforgettable consequences. [Top of PageTop of Page]

Review Citations:

  • Kirkus Review - Children 07/01/2002 pg. 954 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Starred Review Publisher's Weekly 07/01/2002 pg. 80 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Starred Review School Library Journal 09/01/2002 pg. 224 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Kliatt 09/01/2002 pg. 8 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Voice of Youth Advocates 10/01/2002 pg. 293 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Booklist 09/15/2002 pg. 232 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover) -
  • Starred Review Booksense '76 Childrens Wtr 02 11/01/2002 pg. 1 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Horn Book Magazine 11/01/2002 pg. 753 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • Bulletin of Ctr for Child Bks 11/01/2002 pg. 104 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • New York Times Book Review 11/17/2002 pg. 39 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover)
  • USA Today 11/21/2002 pg. 1 (ISBN 0689852223, Hardcover). [Top of PageTop of Page]



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