July 12, 2010

Book Review: Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta

Title: Mamba Point
Author: Kurtis Scaletta
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: TOMORROW!!!! July 13, 2010

From Goodreads
When his dad gets a job at the U.S. embassy in Liberia, twelve-year-old Linus Tuttle knows it’s his chance for a fresh start. Instead of being his typical anxious self, from now on he’ll be cooler and bolder: the new Linus.
 But as soon as his family gets off the plane, they see a black mamba—one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Linus’s parents insist mambas are rare, but the neighborhood is called Mamba Point, and Linus is sure the venomous serpents are drawn to him—he can barely go outside without tripping over one. Then he hears about kasengs—and the belief that some people have a deep, mysterious connection to certain animals.

Unless Linus wants to hide in his apartment forever (drawing or playing games with the strange kid downstairs while his older brother meets girls and hangs out at the pool), he has to get over his fear of his kaseng animal. Soon he’s not only keeping a black mamba in his laundry hamper; he’s also feeling braver than ever before. Is it his resolution to become the new Linus, or does his sudden confidence have something to do with his scaly new friend?
From Kurtis Scaletta comes a humorous and compelling story of a boy learning about himself through unexpected friends, a fascinating place, and an extraordinary animal.

My Review
This is the second book I've read by Kurtis Scaletta, and I've been impressed both times.  This is a sweat book about a young boy growing up.

The Characters: At first I didn't know what to think of Linus (yes he gets Peanuts jokes about his name!). He seemed like a nice enough kid, but a bit too serious.  He gets scared really easy, and his parents tend to shelter him more because of this.  I wanted to see this change as the story progressed - I wanted to see him come out of his shell.  And guess what? He did! But not your typical way.  Linus develops a kind of friendship with a deadly black mamba.  This friendship is described as a kaseng - or a strong connection to certain animal.  I don't know about you, but if I had a connection with an animal I'd rather it be a bunny or something! Linus's fears are put to the test as again and again he comes upon the same black mamba. Through these encounters he gains more and more self confidence.  It was really cool to watch it progress. I felt his pride as he begain to do things that would've caused panic attacks before.  Although I will say the mom in me was not pleased! I mean he carries the mambo into the apartment and lets it stay there with him as he draws it!!!! Yikes! The Linus at the end of the book turned into a much more mature young man than the fearful one at the start.

Plot: Other than the story of Linus and the mamba there is a whole story involving the country of Liberia.  It doesn't play a huge role other than to really show Linus maturing in multiple areas of his life, but setting it against the back drop of this country so different from what Linus knows heightens his growth.  Had his changes just be within a comfortable known setting you would've noticed the change, but that fact he has to learn how to navigate a world he doesn't understand shows how far he comes within the course of the story.  This isn't to say that Linus completely gets it - but you know he's on the right path.  The plot isn't action driving - although there is definately some action - it's more driven by the relationship between Linus and the mamba, the country and the people around him.

Final thought: Very cool and unique way to show a boy growing up and learning about himself
Best stick-with-you image: The mamba crawling up Linus and becoming a "belt" around him!
Best reader for the book: Middle school boys that love creepy crawlies
Best for ages: 10+

To read my review on Mr. Scalett's first book, Mudville, click HERE.
To see his visit to my classroom this past fall click HERE.


  1. Maybe not for me, with the snakes, but it sounds like a great book.

  2. Andrea, this snake is a real sweetheart. Think of it as a long, skinny, scaly, limbless tabby cat. I did.

  3. I just may need to add this book to my middle-grade collection at work. Thanks for the review