Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta is a middle grade novel with a unique setting. Linus and his brother Law (well, really his name is Larry, but he would rather be called Law) have moved to Liberia where their father has taken a job at the US Embassy. This is a chance for Linus, who is a rather anxious and cautious (aka wimpy) pre-teen to reinvent himself. Linus consciously decides to be brave and adventurous in his new home, hoping this will help his popularity. Liberia is also the home to the black mamba snake, a deadly reptile that is very rare. Despite how rare the mamba is supposed to be, Linus sees them everywhere he goes. At first everyone else is skeptical of Linus' snake sightings, thinking instead that it is his anxiety coming through. Eventually Linus feels as though he and the black mamba can communicate with each other and he allows the snake to live in a hamper in his closet, unbeknownst to his parents or brother.
Mamba Point is set in the 1980s, referring to popular items from that decade: Atari, the television show Dallas, baseball player Rollie Finger. Growing up in the 80s myself with an uncle who worked in the US Embassy in Nigeria, I was very interested in the way Linus' and Law's lifestyle was portrayed. Scaletta grew up in Liberia as the son of an Embassy worker, so he knows much about this life. While Liberia has gone through a great deal since Scaletta's own experience there, Scaletta writes of what he knows and is hopeful for Liberia at this point.
I don't think the cover is very appealing and will have to talk this one up to my students. While perhaps geared toward boys, female readers will be able to enjoy this story, too.
Click here to visit Kurtis Scaletta's website