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Farmer, Nancy
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.
IL 5-8, RL 6.3
ISBN 0689852223

(6 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Matt isn't quite sure why Cecelia has hidden him away all his life but he knows that everything is about to change.  Some kids from the main house have found out about him.  He knows he should hide but he is also curious to know what other children are like. What he finds is that he is different from the others.  He is a clone!  Not just any clone.  He is El Patron's clone.  El Patron is the most powerful man in the country.  As a matter of fact, he founded the country.  Opium is a country that lies between the United States and Aztlan -- formerly called Mexico.  The economy is entirely based on the sale of drugs.  El Patron is now 142 years old and relies on clones to supply the needed spare parts to keep him going.  It is the law that clones have their brains destroyed when they are harvested but Matt is an exception.  As the years go by, Matt is educated and gets to live under El Patron's protection.  But he is still a clone.  No better than livestock.  Harvested from a cow.  Does El Patron have other plans for him?

Booktalk #2

In the Beginning, there were 36 of them, 36 droplets of life so tiny that Eduardo could see them only under a microscope. Water bubbled through tubes that snaked around the warm humid wall. Air was sucked into growth chambers. A dull red light shone on Eduardo's face as he scanned the glass dishes, each containing a drop of life. As Eduardo scanned the dishes with a microscope, the cells seemed perfect. Each furnished with all it needed to grow, so much knowledge hidden in that tiny world. Even Eduardo was awed. The cell already knew what color hair it was to have, how tall it would become, and even whether it preferred spinach or broccoli. It might even have a desire for music or crossword puzzles. All of that was hidden in that tiny droplet of life.

The round outlines quivered and lines appeared, dividing the cells into two, Eduardo sighed and thought that it was going to be all right. As he watched the samples grow, he moved them to the incubator. But something about the food, or the heat, or the light was wrong and Eduardo didn’t know what it was. Soon half of them died, and now there were only 15. Eduardo had cold lump in his stomach. If he failed he would be sent to the Farms and then what would become of Anna and the children and his father who was so old.

Lisa, a senior lab technician said, “It’s OK. The cells were frozen over a 100 years ago. They can’t be as healthy as samples taken yesterday. Some of them will grow.” For a month everything went well. The day came that they implanted the tiny embryos in the brood cows. The cows lined up patiently waiting. They were fed by tubes, their bodies were exercised by giant metal arms that flexed their legs as though they were walking through endless fields. Perhaps the cows hated what had been done to them, because one by one the infants, no larger than a minnow died, until there was only one. That infant grew until it was clearly a being with arms and legs and a sweet dreaming face. Eduardo looked through the scanners and said, “You hold my life in your hands.” Then the day came, the cow gave birth to the baby, Eduardo grabbed for the needle that would blunt its intelligence. Lisa stopped him saying, “Don’t fix that one, It’s a Matteo Alacrán. They’re always left intact. Eduardo wondered, “ Have I done you a favor. Will you thank me for it later?

Marilyn Bunker  (Colorado Blue Spruce Children's Award)

Booktalk #3

                   Welcome to the future where drug lords have power and control over large regions of the world.  Human cloning has been successful and many clones have been created.  These clones are very much like humans the only difference is of course how they were created and that each has the marking of a tattoo on them.  This is how the rest of the world is able to identity the humans from the non-humans.  Clones have no rights.  They cannot vote, own land, get an education, obtain medical treatment and so forth.  To many humans in this society clones are worse than filthy, disgusting animals and this is how they treat them.

                    Matt is a clone.  In the beginning of the story, he is completely unaware of this fact.  He is raised by a kind woman named Celia who cares for him.  He does not understand why he must play inside all of the time and he has never interacted with other children.  When Matt is introduced to the world he is met with hostility and hate and he is completely dumbfounded.  El Patron is kind to Matt but he is a drug lord who has great power and wealth.  When Matt discovers the real reason for his creation his is terrified.

                    Read The House of the Scorpion to learn about Matt’s story and uncover the frightening truths about his world.

                    This novel was created by Nancy Farmer a well-known author who wrote such works as A Girl Named Disaster and The Eye, the ear, and the Arm.  This novel is the winner of several honors including the Newbery Honor Award, The Michael Printz honor award, and the winner of the 2002 National Book Award.  (Susan Joyner,, USC Student)

Bootalk #4

What fun are expensive clothes and gifts and people who obey your commands when they really fear you and El Patron, the giver of your life? Young Matt, a clone raised in secret but brought into the House of the Scorpion when children discover his existence, searches for his destiny among the robotic workers and hateful family members. Being clone to the ruler of Opium, an independent country along the Mexican-United States border has its sacrifices and Matt must make wise choices quickly to stay alive.

By Lyla Anderson of Post Middle School Library, Arlington School District for Evergreen Young Adult Book Award

Booktalk 5

Will you help me? Don't be afraid. My name is Matt. I am of the House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer. You have to help me!  I have been treated terribly my entire life except when around El Patron. Everyone fears him because he is so powerful. He is lord over our country called Opium--a strip of poppy fields between the U. S. and what was once called Mexico. I didn't know why he protected me when everyone else seemed to despise me.  Then I found out. I wasn't born like normal humans; I was harvested from a cow. This is why everyone treated me like an animal--because I'm a clone. And this is why I have to get away.  I thought El Patron loved me, but I figured out that he only wanted me around so that he could live forever. Now he needs a new heart, my heart, and I have to get away. Will you help me escape my fate; escape the House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer?  (Leigh Jordan, South Carolina Book Awards, 2006)

Booktalk #6

How would you feel if you found out you were a clone, exactly like someone else already living before you? At this point in our history, we don’t know anyone who has been cloned, but in The House of the Scorpions cloning is used to make field workers called “Eejits” whose brains are destroyed at birth. The eejits work in the poppy fields in a land called Opium, an area between the United States and Atzlan, once known as Mexico. Only one clone is different: Matteo Alacran has been created from the DNA of El Patron, the most powerful drug lord in this land. Matt is raised in seclusion away from the other family members and general society of Opium. At 6 years old, Matt escapes his comfortable prison when he sees some other children playing outside. As his existence becomes known, Matt finds himself torn between two worlds, clones who are treated worse than animals and humans who do not accept him as equal. Being the pampered pet of El Patron only turns the other family members against him. Matt questions his brain being left intact and in his search discovers a horrible secret.

How can Matt find out who he is when what he is a clone -a mirror image- of a human being? How did he come to exist, and for what purpose? Can Matt ever expect to be more than what he was designed to be? It may take escaping the house of the scorpions to find out….  (Stephanie Nichols,  South Carolina Book Awards, 2006)

SUBJECTS:     Cloning -- Fiction.
                        Science fiction.


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