The Last Snake Runner

( 5 )


Will Kendall survive his clan's massacre and live out his destiny as the last Snake Runner?

Kendall can't believe how quickly his dad remarried after his mom died, and he especially can't believe his dad's choice: Juanita is of Spanish descent. That feels like a slap in the face considering Kendall's mom was Native American. This is all more than Kendall can handle, and he needs to get away to the desert where he can think. And especially where he can run. Running is his ...

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Will Kendall survive his clan's massacre and live out his destiny as the last Snake Runner?

Kendall can't believe how quickly his dad remarried after his mom died, and he especially can't believe his dad's choice: Juanita is of Spanish descent. That feels like a slap in the face considering Kendall's mom was Native American. This is all more than Kendall can handle, and he needs to get away to the desert where he can think. And especially where he can run. Running is his destiny: he's the last member of the Snake Clan, the clan known for its long runs across the desert floor-until the Spanish arrived in the Southwest and destroyed the tribe.

When Kendall slips through a hole in time, he finds himself 400 years in the past, just as the Spanish, with their guns and armor, are starting to lay claim to the Southwest. Can Kendall survive the horrible battles so he can return to his own time? Will he become the last Snake Runner, as the spirits have told him he must? More importantly, what will he learn about himself in the process?

Fourteen-year-old Kendall, half Anglo and half Acoma Indian, travels through time to sixteenth-century Acoma, New Mexico, where, in the midst of the invasion of Spanish conquistadors, he joins his Acoma ancestors to play his destined role as the last member of the Snake Clan.

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Editorial Reviews

Coping with a parent's remarriage can be traumatic, even more troubling if the new Spanish spouse symbolizes a culturally abhorrent episode in history. Meet ninth-grader Kendall, an Acoma Native American from New Mexico. Steeped in traditions formerly kept alive by his deceased grandfather and mother, Kendall runs away when confronted with his father's remarriage. A desert run morphs into time-travel, as Kendall finds himself in a moment when Acoma thrived, moments before missionaries and conquistadors virtually eliminated hope for future generations. Little paints friendships, landscapes, and traditions in memorable detail. Working from historical documents chronicling a siege against the Acoma pueblo in 1599, she relates the demise of the Clan of Snake Runners. In its aftermath, the remaining children were sent to religious schools; women were forced into twenty years of servitude; and men, following the dramatic and horrific amputation of one foot, were sentenced to servitude. With dissection and mutilation of family, the once-proud clan declined. Time travel serves to help Kendall better understand his mother's heritage and troubling events often neglected in history texts. Although the last chapter's abrupt wrap-up might bother some readers, this historical fiction could be useful and beneficial in integrated middle school social studies/language arts curriculum. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Knopf, 202p,
— Patti Sylvester Spencer
Kendall, age 14, treasures his Native American heritage. His beloved great-grandfather had taught him the ancient Acoma tribal ways and the Keresan language, and when the old man died Kendall became the last living member of the Snake Clan. Kendall also mourns the death of his mother, and when his father remarries and his new wife displays pride in her Spanish conquistador heritage—though they were the enemies of his Acoma ancestors—Kendall is infuriated. He takes off for the reservation, and while exploring a crevice in the mesa he finds that he has somehow traveled through time, back hundreds of years to when his ancestors lived there and the conquistadors first came into the area. He is befriended by a young Acoma Indian and his beautiful sister, and becomes part of the tribe, participating in the ancient, dangerous snake dance ceremony, which involves capturing and dancing with live rattlers. When the conquistadors arrive, demanding food, a terrible massacre ensues and Kendall witnesses the subjugation, enslavement, and horrific amputations inflicted on what remains of his tribe. He returns to his own time at last, sadder and wiser, reconciled to the changes in his life. This sequel to Enchanted Runner can stand on its own, and the carefully researched details of Kendall's time with the Acoma, the snake dance, and the battle with the conquistadors in 1599 (further explained in an Author's Note at the end) will captivate readers who like historical fiction, gruesome details of violent deaths and amputations notwithstanding. Kendall's bravery, his love of running, and his respect for tradition come through clearly, and this dramatic story will inform and enthrall YAs. KLIATTCodes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Knopf, 202p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-A sequel to Enchanted Runner (Avon, 1999), this book stands on its own as a work of historical fiction and a time-travel story. Kendall, 14, has rediscovered his Native American roots in New Mexico at the Acoma Pueblo, ancestral home of his mother's family. He is the last of the Snake Clan, a long line of warriors and mystics responsible for carrying out the yearly ceremonies that propitiate the gods and bring rain. In his modern existence, he is struggling to deal with the death of his mother. When his father remarries, the teen cannot accept the woman, and he flees into the desert. Transported back to 1598, he becomes part of the vibrant life of the Acoma people, who live on a mesa and farm the surrounding land. The tribe's interaction with a group of Spaniards outfitted in armor results in tragic and devastating consequences, with Kendall a participant, witness, and one of the few survivors. The violence and brutality are powerfully portrayed in this action-filled story. Details of everyday life on the mesa and the people's strong spiritual connection to the land are what make this book stand apart from many other time-travel stories. An author's note explains that the historical events described are based on an eyewitness account by one of the Spanish soldiers. The novel succeeds as a fast-paced adventure and as a meditation on the consequences of a clash of dissimilar cultures.-David Pauli, Hillsboro Public Library, OR Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781494950378
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 1/8/2014
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 1,438,198
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimberley Griffiths Little has received accolades for her well-researched fiction. She is the author of another novel featuring Kendall, Enchanted Runner, which received the Southwest Book Award.

Kimberley also has several books published by Scholastic which have won numerous awards, such as The Whitney Award, the New Mexico Book Award, and a SCBWI Crystal Kite Finalist and been on state reading lists and bestsellers in the Scholastic Book Fairs: Breakaway, The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets, When the Butterflies Came, The Time of the Fireflies (July, 2014). She also has an upcoming Young Adult trilogy, FORBIDDEN, with Harpercollins (Fall, 2014).

A voracious reader who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, she now lives with her three sons and her husband, a robotics engineer, in a solar adobe house along the banks of the Rio Grande.

Kimberley also publishes Young Adult Romance and Paranormal under the name, Kimberley Montpetit. Paris Cravings (February, 2014).

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Read an Excerpt


Kendall drank the bitter brew, trying not to gag when his throat closed. In a few minutes he would vomit, and the cleansing process would be finished.

Piñon smoke and sweating bodies filled the sacred kiva chamber. Barefoot and wearing his deerskin breechcloth, Kendall shuffled across the smooth rock floor, following the other dancers. Drummers knelt beside the altar, and the steady pounding sound filtered through the opening in the roof. The gentle rhythm rocked Kendall’s heart like a baby in a cradle. There was no other place he would rather have been.

From the head of the circle, the medicine man took the wooden bowl of herbs from Kendall’s hands.

“Your great-grandfather would be proud,” the elderly man said solemnly. “But as the last Snake Runner, you will have a difficult journey.”

Kendall nodded. “He told me there were snake dances in the ancient days.”

The elderly man looked into Kendall’s eyes. “The old ways are lost to us. We must rely on the gods to guide you.”

Before Kendall could speak again, the medicine man raised a hand to signal the last dance.

Joining the boys from the other clans who were also being initiated into the kiva ways, Kendall lifted his feet for the final song to the gods. Bells around his ankles jangled softly. Prayer sticks and smoothly carved bear bones clattered at his waist, keeping time with the ancient drumbeats. This day was the final step in becoming a full member of the tribe.

The kiva chamber was filled with fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers from each of the village clans. They were there to watch their sons on this important day. Bear, Antelope, Corn, and Eagle—more than a dozen clans. Kendall was still learning them all. But he was the only member of the Snake Clan.

Kendall wished Armando, his great-grandfather, were there dancing beside him in breechcloth and eagle feathers, his long white hair majestic in the firelight.

Nobody spoke. The singers sang, the drums pounded, feet dusted the stone in steps that were centuries old. Kendall suddenly scanned the chamber, sensing those eyes that watched him from the spirit world. Armando and Kendall’s mother observed his dancing, listened to him speak Keresan. He always felt their presence when he was here at Acoma. He wasn’t completely alone.

The center fire crackled, throwing shadows onto the adobe walls. Paintings of rain gods and bolts of lightning lit up under the fire’s yellow glow. Through the doorway in the roof, stars sparkled from an inky desert sky.

The other boys turned in a circle around the fire, and as they danced their bodies became a single watery outline. Kendall resisted the urge to wipe his eyes, then realized there were no tears. The forms of bodies, fire, altar, and kiva walls were merging and shifting. He brushed back his long black hair. The room began to spin.

The entire kiva chamber, as well as every man there, began to dissolve and disappear. Kendall lurched and fell toward the fire. The hair on his arms singed, and he felt a sharp burning. The room turned black, like a night without stars or moon. Then the bottom of the world fell away, swallowing him whole.

Firelight pricked his eyelids, and when Kendall opened his eyes, he saw the stone ceiling overhead and recognized the paintings on the kiva walls.

Sweat trickled down his face and ran like warm water into his ears. How much time had passed? He was sure days had gone by—or had it been only minutes?

Several warriors bent over him. He saw a black night through the roof’s opening, but the drums were now silent.

“Is he sick from the emetic?” a voice said in the Keresan language.

“There is no vomit,” another voice answered.

“Look at his eyes,” a boy said.

The deep voice of the medicine man said, “He has seen a vision.”

“How long has he been fasting?” an elderly man asked, coming closer.

The crowd of bodies came into focus, and Kendall could see one of the oldest drummers kneeling over him in his leather breechcloth.

The medicine man spoke again from somewhere near Kendall’s feet. “Two weeks. The boy is determined to be a good warrior. Even at night when he’s allowed to eat, he barely fills his belly during this fasting period.”

“He must be ill,” the first voice said.

“No, he is not ill,” the elder replied softly as he watched Kendall’s face. “I think the spirit world has spoken to him.”

“No more talking,” the medicine man commanded. “Help him to his feet.”

Arms escorted Kendall to the stone seat built into the circular walls. He was ashamed to have collapsed like that, as if he’d fainted. But they said he hadn’t been sick. In fact, his stomach gurgled with the emetic brew sloshing at the pit of his belly.

“What day is it?” he asked.

“It’s not a new day, boy. It is the same night.”

“Perhaps he has traveled to a place where time stands still,” said the older man.

The group retreated, but Kendall felt every eye study- ing him.

It felt like he’d been gone for days instead of just moments. The kiva floor had dropped out from under his feet and taken him to another time. A time when some kind of presence overshadowed everything. Something sinister that lurked and spilled into every corner of Acoma. Even the corners of this sacred kiva. But how could that be? No ordinary men were allowed here. This was the kiva where Kendall had learned the Acoma tribal ways, the Keresan language, and the stories of Creation. This was also the place where he had passed his initiation and been welcomed as one of the clansmen, part of them at last. His great-grandfather’s dying wish had been fulfilled, but now that Armando was gone, Kendall was the last member of the Snake Clan. The last Snake Runner.

It was a hot, sweaty July night, but Kendall felt cold. Coldness like he’d never felt before, deep inside his soul, that made him ache. Armando had bestowed his Snake Runner power onto Kendall that night he lay dying on the desert, but Kendall couldn’t stop thinking about how the powerful running magic carried by the Snake Clan would die whenever Kendall died. Kendall followed the dancers and drummers as they filed out to retch over the cliffs and finish the cleansing. Afterward, they would return to their families to close the fasting with a huge feast.

As he walked along the edge of the cliff, Kendall shivered in the hot summer air. He knelt and looked down the sheer walls of pink and cream-colored stone. A bed of boulders lay at the bottom of the desert floor four hundred feet below. The end of summer was coming too soon, and Kendall knew he would be sent home again, back to reality and school and his other life. He fingered the turquoise necklace at the base of his throat. Emotion tugged at his face. Digging into the sacred bundle at his waist, Kendall pulled out a prayer stick that he’d carved into a wriggling snake. He smoothed his hands along the shape of the piñon wood reptile, then touched it lightly with his lips.

“Grandfather, I promise I will always run with all my heart.”

When he knew he was alone at the mesa’s edge, Kendall tied back his long hair and threw up in private.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012


    Ok i ansolutly love it is a never ending book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Excellent look at history...cultural and genetic!

    Wonderfully done. Captivating. Thank you to the author for this amazing glimps of Acoman history. If you have felt the spiritual power of Acoma you will love this book. If you have been pulled by the power of genetic memory this book will speak to your soul. Excellent!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2002

    Don't miss this one...

    ...especially if you love historical fiction!This is a wonderful book that weaves together brilliant threads of a boy's search for answers to unacceptable changes in his life. His Native American heritage leads him to the reservation and a subsequent sci-fi journey through time back to his ancient ancestors. Little's handling of one of the more chilling chapters of Native American history -- specifically the fascinating culture of the Snake Clan and its tragic fate at the hands of the conquistadors -- is powerful and beautifully written. A fascinating book not easily forgotten!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2002

    All I can say is Wow!!!

    This book is gripping and fascinating! I could NOT put it down! It's got everything - a war story, a love story, suspense, tragedy. It would be a great book to use in school as well for History and English classes. Get it - you won't be disappointed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 5 Customer Reviews

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