Review posted February 18, 2022
Levine Querido, 2021. 372 pages.
Review written February 14, 2022, from a library book.
2021 National Book Award Longlist
2022 Newbery Honor Book
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Teen Paranormal Fiction
2022 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Because Darcie Little Badger's debut novel, Elatsoe, was one of my favorite books I read in 2021, I had this book all checked out ready to read as soon as I finished reading for the Cybils Awards. So I felt like I'd won the jackpot when it won Newbery Honor, and I already had it checked out.
Like Elatsoe, this book features an older teen protagonist and is on the Young Adult shelves at my library, but has no sex or graphic violence and will appeal to middle school readers as well as older teens. Also like Elatsoe, A Snake Falls to Earth is steeped in Native American tales from the author's Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.
This book follows two stories. One is the story of Nina, a sixteen-year-old Lipan girl who lives in Texas and is worrying about a hurricane headed for her Grandma's house. That house is on land that has long been in their family, and Grandma gets sick if she leaves it. The story her dying great-grandmother told Nina might shed some light on the reasons why, if Nina can manage to translate it.
The other story is about one of the animal people in the Reflecting World. In his true form, Oli is a cottonmouth snake. In his false form, he's a boy with scales in place of eyebrows. When we first meet Oli, his mother has sent him away from home, and Oli has adventures looking for a place of his own. He makes friends along the way, and when one of those friends gets in trouble, Oli is willing even to make the dangerous journey to Earth to help.
And of course those stories come together in unexpected and delightful ways when Oli makes it to Earth.
Something I loved about Elatsoe was that kids didn't hide magical events from the adults in their lives, and that's true in this book, too. There's a strong sense of community, including parents and elders. Altogether, this is a magical adventure that feels like a yarn you could hear at a storyteller's feet.