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Mamba Point

Mamba Point

5.0 5
by Kurtis Scaletta

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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


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 can barely go outside without tripping over one—he's sure the venomous serpents are drawn to him. 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, author of Mudville, comes a humorous and compelling story of a boy learning about himself through unexpected friends, a fascinating place, and an extraordinary animal.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Etienne Vallee
Twelve-year old Linus is accustomed to moving; his father is in the military. However, a career change to the foreign service brings his parents, his brother, Lawrence, and himself to the country of Liberia, where everything is different. Linus, often called "blanket boy" due to his connection to a more famous namesake, wishes to start anew, just like his brother has—becoming "Law" instead of "Larry." Because he is plagued with insecurities and panic attacks, his parents worry about Linus and wonder if he can survive this new environment. Once in Africa, however, Linus blossoms, thanks to new friends but especially to a kaseng with black mambas. A kaseng is a strong connection between a person and a type of animal. Linus, who was deathly afraid of snakes, attracts one of the deadliest, and sometimes feels as if he can see through the snake's mind. His relationship with the snake evolves from fear to keeping it as a pet, a potentially deadly problem for his family. Slowly, the old Linus evolves into a confident and proud boy. He does things that he would never have done before. He grows throughout the novel, coming to terms with his older brother and gaining a new understanding of the world around him. In a similar way to V. M. Jones's Out of Reach (Marshall Cavendish, 2008/VOYA December 2008), the hurdles and difficulties faced by the protagonist allow him to discover who he really is. Reviewer: Etienne Vallee
Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
When his dad gets a job at the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, Linus and his family relocate to Monrovia. Linus sees it as an opportunity to become the Linus he wants to be, bold and super-cool. He keeps seeing a black mamba snake, a rare and deadly native of Liberia and it seems to be attracted to him. Rather than avoiding the snake, he constructs a terrarium for it in his closet and starts treating it like a pet, forgetting that it is a dangerous wild animal. One weekend while his parents are away, the snake escapes from his closet and tragedy is narrowly averted. Linus learns a valuable lesson about trusting local legends and making decisions. The character of Linus is appealing and the setting is based on the memories of the author who had spent some time in Monrovia as a youngster. The secondary characters are a bit more problematic, particularly the parents. Linus' older brother and his friends routinely engage in bullying Linus, causing him at one time to ingest contaminated swimming pool water and contract an intestinal illness from it. Linus' parents' reaction to his illness borders on nonchalance and his brother is never held accountable for his treatment of Linus. Despite the weak secondary character development, middle-school readers will enjoy the story as it describes life in an exotic setting. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
Julie Just
Full of authentic detail from Scaletta's own childhood experiences in ­Liberia, the novel is both entertaining and touching.
—The New York Times
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Linus and his family have moved to Monrovia, Liberia, where his father works for the U.S. embassy. Shy and anxious, the 12-year-old keeps seeing a friendly black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the country, and he discovers that he has a kaseng, a connection with this particular animal. As weeks pass, Linus begins to treat the snake as a pet, hidden from everyone, and he feels that he is changing, becoming more confident and bold, perhaps taking on the mamba's characteristics. When he sets up a dry terrarium in his closet for it, he forgets that he is putting others in danger. With parents away, his older brother locks him out because he is having a party, and the inevitable occurs. Fortunately all ends well. In this absorbing novel, Linus is trying to find out who he is so he can leave behind the anxious child he recognizes in himself. Set in 1982, the novel portrays life in an American embassy, separate from and yet part of a city quite different from mainstream America. Scaletta writes about Monrovia in real terms, a city whose people, like those everywhere, span many income and social groups, but where poverty is a constant. The novel also looks head-on at various stereotypes of Africa. Though this well-written work occasionally moves slowly, the excellent characterization and the unusual setting will appeal to many readers.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.01(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

My brother changed his name on the plane ride to Africa.  

"From now on, my name is Law," he said. "Law Tuttle." He said it to himself a few times, practicing. "Hey, I'm Law. Law Tuttle." He tossed his bangs back with a casual nod as he said it. He'd only recently begun growing his hair out, so he didn't have much to toss.  

"I've never heard of anyone called Law," I said, not looking up from my book. I was reading Tarzan of the Apes in comic-book form, which was a going-away present from Joe, my buddy back in Dayton. He wrote on the wrapping paper that it was something to get me ready for the great African experience. If Tarzan was at all accurate, I was in big trouble. According to the comic, Africa was all cannibals and savage apes and hungry lions. I'd read the encyclopedia article, too, though. It said Liberia was founded back in the 1800s by some freed American slaves. They went back to Africa and created their own country. That was why they spoke English in Liberia, and why their flag looked like ours, only with one big star instead of fifty little ones, and why their currency was dollars and cents. There was nothing in the article about ape tribes or cannibals, so those guys must have civilized it by now.  

We were moving to Africa because my dad got a job at the American Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. I didn't know exactly what he'd be doing there, just that he'd be working for two years and then we'd probably move somewhere else.  

Dad said it was a big embassy with lots of families and that we'd have plenty of friends. That would be a big change from Dayton, where I had a few pals but not plenty, like they were swarming around me when I left the house. Dad also told us that the embassy compound had a swimming pool and tennis courts and a clubhouse for teenagers and a library with books and videotapes. I wouldn't be able to go to that teen club until I turned thirteen on December 11, but I was looking forward to swimming and the other stuff.  

"Law is short for Lawrence," my brother insisted. "It makes more sense than Larry."  

"Whatever you say, Law." I made as much noise as I could turning the page. Tarzan was about to do battle with a savage man-eating gorilla, and it was a lot more interesting than Larry making up new names for himself. The gorilla took up most of the next page, its muscles rippling, saliva dripping from its fangs—lots of nice details. I would try and copy it later.  

"You could come up with a name, too," Law suggested. "You hate your first name."  

"No I don't." I didn't, either. Kids made fun of it sometimes, but it wasn't my name's fault people were jerks.  

"Yes you do," he insisted. "How about you go by L.T. or, um, Wheels, since you like skating?"  

"No way."  

"Fine. Go on being Blanket Boy." His point made, my brother sprawled out and drifted off to sleep, probably dreaming of a better life as Law than he'd had in Ohio as plain old Larry.    

My first name is Linus. Most people hear that name and think of the kid in the cartoons who totes a blanket around and never combs his hair. Usually within five seconds of meeting me they ask, "Hey, where's your blanket?" Like no one every thought of that before. So Larry had a point about changing my name, but I didn't think I would.  

First of all, even if I had the coolest first name in the world—like Indiana in Raiders of the Lost Ark—my last name would still be Tuttle, which sounds like "Turtle," and kids would skip on to the turtle jokes. "Where's your blanket?" would become "Where's your shell?"  

Second of all, it's not necessarily about the name. I knew this kid back in Dayton named Percy Schaefer. Percy is the sort of first name that they ought to not allow by law. The thing was, Percy Schaefer was cool about it. When he said his name was Percy,he said it like it was a great joke and he was in on it. Percy had long hair and wore a denim vest year-round with a bunch of weird patches on it and carried a deck of cards in the vest pocket. If he had five minutes to spare, he'd challenge you to a game of knock rummy—he'd play you penny-a-point and win, but then he'd take the whole pocket of change down to the arcade and treat you to video games. Percy was one of the coolest kids in Dayton, and after a while you felt like you could have been cool, too, if only your name was Percy instead of Larry or Linus or Joe. So maybe the name wasn't really the problem. Maybe it was me.  

Meet the Author

Kurtis Scaletta was born in Louisiana and grew up in several states and foreign countries, including Liberia, where this story takes place. Mamba Point is his second novel for young readers. His first book, Mudville, is a Booklist Top Ten Sports Book for Youth and was named a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Booksellers Association.

Kurtis now lives in Minneapolis with his wife and several cats (but no snakes). To learn more about him, please visit www.kurtisscaletta.com.

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Mamba Point 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bambili More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful read for all ages. Linus moves to Monrovia, Liberia from Dayton, Ohio. He hopes to reinvent himself, moving from an anxiety-ridden odd kid to a cool teen. With the help of his kaseng, a black mamba (which everyone agrees is not likely that he even sees,) he gains self confidence, loses many of his fears, and learns that we all have baggage. I highly recommend this book to anyone who tried a "do over" at the cusp of their teen years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here. ~Mirna (spirit)