A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Author Darcie Little Badger is both a scientist and an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, and the narrative is steeped in science (Nina's mom, a translator, is always far from home on ocean research projects, but her knowledge and expertise play a large role) and Apache culture and mythology of the Reflecting World. Nina's attempts to make sense of her dying great-great-grandmother's words, in a dialect Nina doesn't know and garbled forever by an auto-translation app, are essential to the story. Some phrases and dialogue in Spanish.
Strong messages of family, friendship, respect for ecosystems, respect for cultures and differences, recognition that it takes everyone's talents, abilities, and help to get the job done.
Positive Role Models
Nina, 16 and human, is strong, smart, determined, relentless, and good with technology. She's also devoted to her family and her tribal traditions. Oli, a little older and a snake, often seen in his human-like false form, is shy, geeky, and timid, but finds courage and determination as he and his companions venture into the human world to save his best friend. The little toad Ami never speaks, but is such a comforting presence to his friends that they're determined to do whatever it takes to save him. Nina's parents and grandmother are a strong, supportive influence, and also trying to protect their ancestral land from perils ranging from hurricanes to developers. Oli's animal friends are often capricious and quirky, but tend to prove helpful in a crisis.
The central human characters, like the author, are members of the Lipan Apache tribe, whose culture, mythology, language, and tribal survival are the foundation of the story. The human characters' interaction with the animal people offers perspective on overcoming differences and working together to save an imperiled loved one. One character is described in nonbinary (they/them) pronouns. Brief mention of a neighbor couple, two married women.
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Violence & Scariness
The dark, mysterious Nightmare King is a murderous force of the old stories who turns out to be live and well in modern times, with plenty of human followers doing his bidding as a cult of animal killers. Oli, cast out of his mom's home, finds himself fleeing an unknown monster and wondering whether any of his siblings are still alive as he tries to find a new place; he's a venomous snake and instinctively bites as a response to stress. Both Earth characters and those from the animal world face mortal peril due to human greed, environmental system collapse, and other catastrophes, and some die along the way -- mass death, extinction and the struggle to avoid them are important themes. Nina's great-great-grandmother dies early in the story after passing stories to Nina. Nina's grandmother is threatened by a hurricane and also by human villains. Nina's mother is always away working on some research project to support the family, and the separation causes a lot of sadness.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief, G-rated mention of "furries" -- people with a fetish of dressing up as animals -- and how they're different from the animal people of the spirit world who have real animal forms and false human ones. Moments of wardrobe malfunction as animal people change from their "true" animal form to their "false" human form and back again.
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Occasional "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," one "a--hole."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional mention of real-life brands for scene setting,such as Pop-Tarts and the Weather Channel. The characters decide to make money by creating a clickbait video.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In the animal world, the coyotes are known for drunken parties.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Snake Falls to Earth, by Lipan Apache author Darcie Little Badger, is a 2022 Newbery Honor Book. It's a fantasy set in the present day, featuring the dual narratives of Nina, a Lipan girl in Texas who's 9 when the story opens and 16, almost 17 for most of the action, and a little older is Oli, the snake of the title, a shy, bespectacled cottonmouth who lives in the Reflecting World of the spirits and wants nothing more than to bask peacefully on his rock. There's not much communication between the worlds any more, and there are definitely some on Earth who want to keep it that way and are happy to kill animal spirits unlucky enough to cross their path. Their stories come together as a hurricane threatens the home and safety of Nina's grandmother, who may also be the target of a murderous villain's henchmen, and Oli finds the courage and determination to gather a band of animal people and head to Earth in a desperate attempt to save their dying friend, a toad. Nina's father is a bookseller, her mom's a translator for scientists on ocean research vessels, and author Little Badger is a scientist herself, so storytelling and science are part of the rich landscape throughout. Ecosystems and their interconnectedness are strong themes. The characters and world-building are imaginative, fresh, and irresistible as the tale unfolds, with family, friendship, culture, courage, and teamwork all looming large. Occasional strong language includes "s--t" and its variations, "damn," and "a--hole."
Is It Any Good?
An Apache teen girl and a bespectacled snake come together to save friends and family in Darcie Little Badger's imaginative tale of long-parted worlds. Steeped in science and mythology, A Snake Falls to Earth unfolds very much on its own terms as author Little Badger faces her complex, engaging characters with a lot of surprising challenges. Here Nina, who's heard about such beings all her life, ponders Oli and his band of animal-people friends, who've come to Earth to save their dying friend Ami the toad, and have enlisted her aid.
"In many ways, their facial expressions and behavior reminded her of their animals. That, more than anything, made Nina's heart sting with affection for her new friends. She'd known them less than twenty-four hours, and was already willing to drop everything in the middle of hurricane season just to help them save a toad."
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