Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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

(2 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)

SUBJECTS:     Cloning -- Fiction.
                        Science fiction.


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