Bringing the Boy Home

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"I've seen what the world does to the weak. It'll eat you alive."

Tirio was cast out of the Takunami tribe at a very young age because of his disabled foot. But an American woman named Sara adopted him, and his life has only gotten better since. Now, as his thirteenth birthday approaches, things are nearly perfect. So why is he having visions and hearing voices calling him back to the Amazon?

Luka has spent his whole life preparing for his soche seche tente, a sixth-sense test...

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Bringing the Boy Home

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"I've seen what the world does to the weak. It'll eat you alive."

Tirio was cast out of the Takunami tribe at a very young age because of his disabled foot. But an American woman named Sara adopted him, and his life has only gotten better since. Now, as his thirteenth birthday approaches, things are nearly perfect. So why is he having visions and hearing voices calling him back to the Amazon?

Luka has spent his whole life preparing for his soche seche tente, a sixth-sense test all Takunami boys must endure just before their thirteenth birthday. His family's future depends on whether or not he passes this perilous test. His mother has dedicated herself to making sure that no aspect of his training is overlooked . . . but fate has a way of disturbing even the most carefully laid plans.

Two young boys. An unforgiving jungle. One shared destiny.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Jamie S. Hansen
As a handicapped infant, Tirio was cast out of his Takunami tribe by his mother and never knew his father. Fortuitously Sara, an American anthropologist, found the child and adopted him. As his thirteenth birthday approaches, Americanized Tirio begins hearing voices that call him home, back to the Amazon where it is time for him to endure his soche seche teute, the rite of passage for his tribe. Coincidently Tirio and Sara are Amazon-bound for the boy's thirteenth birthday present, providing an opportunity for him to slip away into the jungle for his passage into manhood. As Tirio plans his unofficial trial, in a parallel plot line, Luka, another Takunami boy, trains for his ordeal, exercising his skills and senses to ensure his survival. Alert readers will realize that Luka's voice is Tirio's guide. Even discerning readers, however, may be bewildered to learn that Luka is actually Tirio's father and the parallel events are really in the past. This unsettling and unsatisfying story disappoints on several levels. No hint of magical realism or time shift is ever offered until the jarring ending. A surely unnecessary author's note reveals that the Takunami tribe, its rituals, and language are imaginary, as are many of the plants and animals. The author gives her characters stilted dialogue resembling poor film dubbing. For a more moving and sensitive look at a different culture, recommend Joan Abelove's lovely Go and Come Back (DK Ink, 1998/VOYA October 1998). Reviewer: Jamie S. Hansen
School Library Journal

Gr 4-8

This story unfolds in alternating chapters, written from the viewpoints of two young members of an Amazonian tribe. On their 13th birthdays, Takunami boys must face a rite of passage into manhood, guided through danger by a spiritual connection with their fathers, whose identity remains a secret until after the trial. Though they have lived very different lives, Tirio and Luka are both preparing for this mentally and physically demanding test. Considered weak because of his disabled foot, Tirio was placed on the river in a "corpse canoe" by his mother at age six and rescued and adopted by an American anthropologist. Now almost 13, he feels drawn back to his village and longs to prove himself a Takunami man. Though Luka has been training for the test his entire life, he wrestles with unexpected events that threaten his success. A clever plot device links the characters and their personal struggles together. The setting is strikingly described and provides a vivid backdrop for the action. The language, rituals, and beliefs of the Takunami are well developed, and will have many readers looking for further information about them. Youngsters may feel duped to discover, in an appended author's note, that the tribe is imaginary, "based on an idea, and not a representation of any known Amazonian people." Nevertheless, this is a fast-paced and remarkable adventure story with surprising twists along the way.-Genevieve Gallagher, Buford Middle School, Charlottesville, VA

Kirkus Reviews
Told in two distinctive voices, this imaginative and beautifully realized novel, set in the Amazon, tells the story of two boys from the fictional Takunami tribe, who on the eve of their 13th birthdays must endure the soche seche tente, a test of manhood. If a Takunami boy successfully completes this ordeal, he will have warrior status in the tribe and be allowed to meet his father, who psychically guides him during the experience. Tirio, who was ousted from the tribe because of a bad foot, has not been formally trained. But now that his birthday approaches, he has been hearing the voices of his ancestors and knows that despite his lack of preparation, he is being called upon to meet his destiny. Luka, who has spent his childhood working toward this moment under the tutelage of his strong-willed mother, is ready. Their stories connect in a surprising yet totally believable way, giving psychological depth to this richly hued novel about the winding turns of destiny and the bonds between father and son, tribe and family. (Fiction. 8-12) (5 star review)
”Refreshing, well put-together, and completely original.”
(5 star review) -
"Refreshing, well put-together, and completely original."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060886998
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

N. A. Nelson was born in London, England, and grew up on a cattle farm in rural Missouri. Living on a thousand acres of wilderness provided plenty of opportunities for adventure, but it also created a sense of wonderment about what else was out there. After graduating with a degree in tourism, the author strapped on a backpack and has been exploring the world ever since. Recent journeys include the jungles of the Amazon and the glaciered peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. Bringing the Boy Home is the author's debut novel and the winner of the 2005 Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest.

The author will donate a portion of the profits of this book to the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), whose mission is to work in partnership with indigenous people in conserving biodiversity, health, and culture in tropical America. To learn more, visit

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Read an Excerpt

Bringing the Boy Home

Chapter One


12 Years, 357 Days
The United States

He's going to fake left.

The boy with the number one on his jersey fakes left.

I crouch protectively in the goal area as he dribbles the soccer ball closer. With only a few minutes left, the Miami Mavericks are relying on this boy, their captain, to tie the game. Number eleven is open. Captain Maverick positions himself to pass. "Hey!" Coach Smalley yells, flailing his arms. "Who's got eleven? Someone cover eleven!"

My best friend, Joey, steals the ball, but Captain Maverick regains control and opens himself up again.

Like a hunter trying to figure out which way his prey is going to bolt, I focus on the shift in the boy's muscles and the darting of his eyes. Is he going to pass or shoot?

His teammate, number eleven, inches closer.

Coach Smalley runs along the boundary line. "Left, Tirio! Watch your left!"

I start to move, but something makes me stop and step back. Captain Maverick's not going to pass. My eyes search the boy for signs to back up my hunch. Nothing. Four boys guard him now. Eleven stands alone, waiting. Coach is screaming at me to watch eleven.

Instead, I keep my gaze locked on the boy with the ball.

The captain faces number eleven, rears back his leg-and, at the last minute, pivots his body toward me and shoots. Without stuttering in either direction, I catch the ball and torpedo it out of the goal area. The ref blows the whistle. Game over.

I hear Sara's signature whoop and see her standing on the bleachers, giving me a double thumbs-up. I return the gesture."Unbelievable." Joey runs up and high-fives me. "How did you know he was going to do that?"

I grin uneasily as my teammates slap me on the back. "I just had this feeling. It was kind of weird actually, I-"

"Weird, shmeird . . . who cares? We're going to the championships!" he crows, throwing his arms in the air as we jog over to shake the other team's hands. "How's the foot?"

"Good." I lower my voice and look for Sara in the crowd. "I'm not even wearing my brace."

"Why not?" Joey asks. "After the way you played, Coach is gonna keep you as goalie, brace or not."

"It's not about Coach," I say as we walk toward the parking lot. "I just don't need it, that's all."

Joey gives me a sidelong glance. "If it's not about Coach, then who's it about?"

"I told you," I say, irritated. "I don't need it."

"This isn't about your dad, is it?" he asks. "About proving him wrong? He's not here to see you, T, so I don't know why you're risking getting reinjured-"

"Yeah, well, speaking of dads," I snap, "I didn't see yours in the stands."

My friend turns to look at me with a hurt expression.

Hanging my head, I regret my words. I know Joey was watching for his father the entire game. Mr. Carter's an airline pilot and although he always promises to be here, he hasn't seen Joey play once all season. "Delayed flight" or "bad weather" are the excuses he always gives.

I look up at the perfectly blue sky and bite my tongue.

We've finally reached the parking lot, and Joey's mom waves at us from her car. Joey storms away.

"Hey, I'm sorry." I hurry to catch up with him. "I'm sure your dad will be here for the championships, Joe. No way he'd miss that." I grin to show him I'm not mad anymore. "And if he doesn't, who needs him? We'll win anyway, right?"

Climbing into the car, he grabs his earbuds from his backpack and puts them on. "You know what, Tirio? Maybe that's the way they do things in the Amazon, but it's not the way we do things here."

Bull's-eye. Best friends always know where to hit you the hardest.

"I'm not like them," I mumble, as Joey slams the door. "I'm not." The wind blows my words back to me like a butterfly. A pierid butterfly. I'm not like them. . . .

I close my eyes and my life rewinds to when I was five. My first hunting lesson with the Takunami warrior Wata. I had just pointed out a pauq-pauq bird that was camouflaged in the brush when Wata cupped his hand around his ear. His eyes grew big and he sprinted away, waving silently for me to follow. I loped after him but tripped over my bad foot and fell.

Trying not to cry, I untangled myself and limped toward my teacher. Fifty paces ahead, I found him staring at a flock of pale yellow pierid butterflies drinking at the river.

Without acknowledging my presence, he squatted and pulled a pierid out of the group. Holding its body gently, he plucked one wing and returned the insect to the ground. I forced myself to watch, knowing this must be a very important lesson. Gradually the forest got darker, but Wata didn't move. I bit my tongue to ignore my throbbing foot. Suddenly, the butterflies flew away, all except the pierid with the missing wing. It lay still, and I was sure it was dead.

"Wata . . ."

He silenced me with narrowed eyes. Finally he nodded. A horned frog hopped out of the forest and ogled the butterfly. The pierid fluttered frantically, but the frog jumped twice and snapped it up. Without a word, my teacher stood and started back to the village; the hunting lesson was over. I followed him and as I passed by the frog, I searched for a stick to kill it, but Wata looked back and I hurried to catch up.

Lying in my hammock that night, I couldn't sleep. Although I was excited about what I had learned, uneasiness hung over me like early morning fog. The pierid. Was Wata showing me that as a hunter I should go for the weakest, injured animal? Or . . . was he showing me how similar I was to the one-winged butterfly? How I too had no chance to survive in the Amazon?

Bringing the Boy Home. Copyright (c) by N. Nelson . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 10, 2014

    I really loved the two perspectives to life in the tribe and out

    I really loved the two perspectives to life in the tribe and outside the tribe that this story offered. About 2/3 of the way through this book, I caught on to what the real story was between Luka and Tirio. Great story with great characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2009

    Couldn't disagree more with VOYA

    I have to say how surprised I was with VOYA'S review. I couldn't disagree more with this review. My 5th grade daughter and I read this book together. We had the chance to exchange our thoughts and views about the book. We both felt it was very thrilling and had a hard time putting this book down. I found it disconcerting to read that VOYA had given the ending away with their review. I consider both my daughter and I avid readers and we did not come to the ending conclusion until the end. I would highly recommend this book to both girls and boys in this recommended age group.B&N might want to change the order of such a negative review. Viewers, like me, want to hear about the positive FIRST, then maybe the negative. It would be too bad if they got a bad taste in their mouth about this book. I wouldnt want them to miss out on a such a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Chelsea Swiggett for

    BRINGING THE BOY HOME introduces two unique boys as they approach their thirteenth birthdays. As tradition in their Amazon tribe, they must trek through the dangerous jungle as a test of their strength. If they survive after days alone in the Amazon, they will be united with their fathers for the very first time. <BR/><BR/>One boy, Tirio, now resides in America after being banned from his family and tribe for a birth defect that causes him to limp. As his birthday is approaching, however, his sixth sense picks up on signs that point him back to the Amazon and his tribe. He's going to take his test and prove himself a man - and prove his father wrong in the process. <BR/><BR/>The other boy, Luka, is going through rigorous training so that he'll make it out of the Amazon alive. All of his senses are working beyond perfect, and he seems to be on the direct path to success. That is, until tragedy strikes. <BR/><BR/>BRINGING THE BOY HOME is refreshing, well put-together, and completely original. The continuous suspense resulted in a fast, easy read, making it a book I'd recommend to reluctant readers as well as avid ones. The plot blended realism with fiction and fantasy, opening itself to all types of book lovers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!

    My nephews LOVE this book -- though they are somewhat reluctant readers, they couldn't put this one down. Nelson has written an original, adventurous story, with genuine characters and a satisfying end. I highly recommend BRINGING THE BOY HOME to kids and parents alike!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2008

    Good for All Ages

    In the Takunami tribe that lives hidden in the Amazon rainforest, boys are trained from a young age for their soche seche tente, a test all boys of thirteen must pass lest they be banishes from the tribe. Two young boys grow up in completely different worlds. Tirio was cast from the Takunami tribe because of a disability and now lives with his adoptive parent Sara in the United States. But as his thirteenth birthday approaches, he is beginning to feel a deeper connection to his first home in the Amazon. Luka¿s mother has extensively prepared him for the test he is to undergo when he turns thirteen and refuses to let anything get in the way. Luka is certain he will be able to pass the test, but his mother¿s plans go awry when his father dies, severing the connection that was supposed to help him during his test of manhood. And somehow, these two boys, Tirio and Luka, are connected in unexpected ways. I know that Harper Collins classifies this novel as a children¿s book, but I most definitely think it should be part of the young adult genre. This coming-of-age story was extremely unique, and I loved how many cultural aspects of Amazonian tribes (even if they were partially made-up) were integrated into the story. I really loved how nature was such a big part of the story. Both Luka¿s and Tirio¿s struggles were very realistic, especially each boy¿s yearnings to know his father. And I was very shocked by Luka and Tirio¿s connection, but pleased with how the ending tied up all the loose ends. I thoroughly enjoyed N.A. Nelson¿s debut novel and recommend it to all readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2008


    I knew from the first page that this would be an amazing read and it was. The magic and real blend together for a tale that is unforgetable!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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