Florida Seminole Tourism

Little Badger’s Stunning Genre-Bending Novel: A Snake Falls to Earth

Welcome back to Florida Seminole Tourism’s Summer Book Club! This last week, we have looked at selections for middle-school aged readers. On Friday, we featured Tom Tingle’s How I Became a Ghost. Previously in our series, we have featured Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Nobel Maillard and Powwow Day by Traci Sorell for elementary age readers.

Today, we look at A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger. Intricately woven in the style of traditional Lipan Apache storytelling, this novel connects the world of a young Lipan Apache girl, Nina, with a cottonmouth kid, Oli. Spurred on by a threat to his best friend, Oli travels from his home in the Reflecting World to Earth. As their lives collide, we follow the story of their desperate efforts to save the people they love. Themes of family, love, conservationism, and disaster thread through the story, and pull us along the path to anywhere-you-please.


A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger begins with young Nina, a Lipan Apache girl, at the bedside of her dying great-great-grandmother Rosita. Impossibly old, Rosita is a storyteller from another age. Through language that Nina does not understand, Rosita tells her a story, the story of their family, as Nina records it on a translation app.

“Esto es importante.

This is important.

Recuerda nuestra historia.

Remember our history.

-Nina’s Great-great grandmother Rosita

Nina, who only understands English, records the story blended from Spanish and Lipan Apache. After Rosita is gone, Nina relentlessly tries to understand the story’s meaning. As we follow her along the weaving of her own story, Nina works to unravel the mystery of Rosita’s. Years pass, and Nina edges ever closer to translating its meaning, painstakingly hunting down and translating her words to Lipan Apache, a language that has almost faded to time.

As she does this, we are introduced to her family and world. Nina’s near-future Texas home is technologically advanced, but hints of disaster, apocalypse, and extinction are ever-running in the background. A storyteller in her own right, Nina gathers her family’s old stories of animal-people, monsters, and magic and records them while she and her father work to take care of her grandmother. Tied to her land, Nina’s grandmother can go no further than 40 miles from her home without risking dying. As a hurricane barrels down on her grandmother’s property, Nina tries to pick apart the mystery of her grandmother’s illness, her family’s history, and the truth of the stories she holds in her heart.


A Cottonmouth Kid

Oli, a cottonmouth kid, lives in the Reflecting World. A mirror of Earth, it is populated by animal-people, spirits that hold humanoid false forms and true forms of their animals. After being kicked out from the nest by his mother, he begins the journey of finding his own way. We follow Oli’s winding path to his new home.

After experiencing danger on the road, he is found by the path to anywhere-you-please. “I can’t remember when I learned about the path to anywhere-you-please,” Oli muses. “It’s one of those stories everybody seems to know, like a persistent thread of gossip. But I’ll never forget the day it found me, completely by chance, in the terror of Robin-Kept-Forest. Thing is, I didn’t know the path was special until I’d already walked it. Where would I be now if I’d known?” (7) The path leads him to the edge of the bottomless lake, where he creates a found family with his neighbors, including a mute Dallas toad Ami.

When danger and extinction threaten Ami, Oli and four of his friends realize they can’t find answers in the Reflecting World. Interlinked, events on Earth impact the animal-people of the Reflecting World, and Oli and his friends race to bridge the gap between the worlds to find answers.

As Oli and his rag-tag group of friends search for those answers, their journey collides with Nina’s. Together, the group works to save their families, while impending disaster and nightmares loom around them.


Colonialism, Language, Storytelling, and Loss

Throughout A Snake Falls to Earth, there are a number of overarching themes that Little Badger emphasizes. One is how Nina and her family have grappled with the effects of colonialism, the fracturing of their culture and language, and the losses that come with that. Nina’s storytelling is passed down; the women in her family have a long history of protecting the traditional stories and preserving them. Nina records hers. Mostly for herself and kept private, she protects these stories that have been handed down to her. The legacy of her family and her culture, the stories and her efforts to untangle the Lipan Apache language are ever-present themes.

In a 2020 interview with Caitlin Monday (Latinx/Lipan Apache) for We Need Diverse Books about her debut novel, Little Badger spoke about the need for representation for her tribe in literature.

“Texas doesn’t make our tribe’s historical impact known in the school curriculum. So where else are you going to learn it? I, fortunately, learned it from my mother because she is aware of our historical impact. But I didn’t learn about our people from a textbook,” Little Badger shares “As big of a reader I am, when I was a teenager, I never read books that had one part of my identity that was very important to me. I never read a character who was Lipan. I didn’t really read main characters who were Native American.”

As Nina explores her own cultural identity, she works to protect the pieces that have been handed down to her. Hungry for that knowledge, we see right in Little Badger’s story the difficultly Nina experiences even interacting with her own language. We also see her interact with technology in a way similar to our own. Need an answer? Google it. Ask Siri (or in Nina’s case, Nifty). But, the technology she, and we, depend on does not hold the answers Nina so desperately needs.



Little Badger, who has a PhD in Oceanography and is also an Earth scientist, also explores the theme of disaster, conservationism, and climate change. Her near-future Earth is a warning; extreme disasters, flooding, and droughts are ever-present in the background, serving as undercurrents to the story. The novel explores these ideas of extinction, and the permeance of loss. In Oli’s Reflecting World, if the animal counterparts on Earth die, so do the animal people. We see this clearly with the story of the bison-people and hear Oli’s great-grandmother’s warning. “Never forget how quickly our end can come, Oli. Never take your life for granted.” (72)

In another thread, Nina’s grandmother’s relationship to her land, and the connection it represents to her culture and traditions, is a stark message. Without the land, we die. Without the culture, the traditions, and the family, we die. These are worthy of value and protection, no matter how difficult the work.


Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the animal-people?
  2. Describe the interaction between Earth and the Reflecting World. How does one influence the other?
  3. Who is Oli’s family? Who are his community? Describe how the people around him become his found family while he searches for his siblings.
  4. Pick a character from A Snake Falls to Earth. Describe them the best that you can. What do you learn about them throughout the story? How does their story evolve and change?
  5. What is Nina’s grandmother’s connection with the family land? What happens when she leaves? Why?
  6. Nina is a contemporary kid, trying to balance the world as it is with traditional knowledge and culture. How does she use technology to help her? How does it hurt her? Does it hold the answers she is looking for? Why, or why not? How does Nina blend her contemporary life with her traditions and culture?

Photo Credit to Darcie Little Badger, via her Blog

About Darcie Little Badger

Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache novelist and Earth Scientist. She received her BA in Geosciences from Princeton University, and her PhD in Oceanography from Texas A&M. Her debut novel, Elatsoe was included on Time’s list of the 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time.

A Snake Falls to Earth continues in the genre of Indigenous futurism, where Native authors write fantasy and science fiction stories while taking influence from themes, characters, and stories from their cultures. In a 2022 interview, Little Badger touches on inspiration from traditional storytelling.

She shares that “the structure, themes, and characters in this book are heavily inspired by the Lipan stories Mom told me. In particular, several of Oli’s early chapters are self-contained misadventures with larger-than-life characters—similar to my favorite traditional stories—that tie into the greater plot.” Truly, the story feels woven, as each thread gets added, we get a better understanding of the greater picture. But, if you were to pull out certain scenes, they could be a story in themselves.

A Snake Falls to Earth won the 2021 Andre Norton Award and the 2022 Ignyte Award for Best Young Adult Novel. It was also a Newbery Honor book and was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Little Badger hopes that her writing provides hope and support for her readers, Native and non-native alike. In a recent interview about her newest release, Sheine Lende, Little Badger shares “When I write my books I want to give the readers not just a fun adventure but maybe also a way to help them feel a little bit stronger.”


Looking for more?

Below, we have compiled a list of more Native written and illustrated books for middle school age readers!


Super Indian and Super Indian: Volume Two by Arigon Star (Kickapoo)

Chickadee by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)

If I Ever Get Out Of Here by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache)

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young (Navajo)

Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)


Author Bio

Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Lakeland, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.

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