Book Talk: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Watch my book talk or read the transcript below:

In The House of the Scorpion, between the United States and the former country of Mexico stands a huge drug empire, ruled by powerful farmers like El Patrón, farmers who sometimes live for over a hundred years. In this wealthy country, in a tiny house in the middle of a field of white opium poppies, Matteo Alacrán lives with Celia, the cook at the big house. Although Celia is kind to him, he has to keep away from the windows and has never met another soul, or played with another child. I’m going to read you a conversation between two children who discover Matteo and they reveal his identity.

“What are you talking about?”
“Matt’s a clone,” said Steven.
Emilia gasped. “He can’t be! He doesn’t – I’ve seen clones. They’re horrible! They drool and mess their pants. They make animal noises.”
“This one’s different. Benito told me. Technicians are supposed to destroy their minds at birth – it’s the law. But El Patrón wanted his to grow up like a real boy. He’s so rich, he can break any law he wants.”
“That’s disgusting. Clones aren’t people,” cried Emilia.
“Of course they aren’t.” (p. 26)

Overhearing this conversation, Matteo first understands why he has writing on his foot that marks him as property. Sometimes he is treated cruelly. Later, he is sometimes celebrated by the evil old El Patrón himself. Matteo wonders whether he is human at all. That’s only the start of the disturbing secrets he will he uncover about the opium fields and the sinister family that rules over them.

Book details: Farmer, N. (2002). The House of the Scorpion. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780689852220; Hardcover; $17.95.

Annotation: The young, healthy clone of an aging drug lord must find his own identity in the middle of a dangerous, political family.

Awards:

  • National Book Award, 2002
  • Newbery Honor, 2003
  • Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book, 2003
  • Buxtehuder Bulle, 2003 (Germany)
  • ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
  • IRA Young Adults’ Choices
  • Sequoyah Young Adult Award
  • Volunteer State Award, 2006
  • Arizona Young Readers Teen Award, 2005
  • South Carolina Junior Readers Award, 2005-2006
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award nominee, 2004
  • Young Hoosier Book Award, 2006
  • Nevada Young Readers’ Award, 2005
  • Senior Young Readers’ Choice Award
  • Pacific Northwest Library Association, 2005
  • Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Association Award for Children’s Literature

(Source)

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