Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

“’I’ll let you get settled’, Dave says,

But first I’ll give you some lessons…

Number one, he says,

always lock your door.

Ganwar, show Kek what a key looks like.’

In my old home,

my real home,

my father kept us safe.

We had no need for locks.

Kek is a refugee from Sudan.  He has been resettled from the refugee camp, and sent to live with his aunt and cousin in Minnesota.  In Sudan, he used to live with his parents and brother.  However, when the men with guns came, only his mother survived, and now she is missing.

It is certainly a big task to adjust to the new surroundings, and it is even more challenging when you miss your home country and you’re worried that you might never see your mother again.  But Kek is an optimist at heart, and he tries his best to keep his hopes (and those of his aunt and cousin) up.  For example, back in Sudan, cows were integral to life-very prized possessions.  In Minnesota, Kek passes a scrawny old cow ambling around a tumbledown farm, and somehow convinces the elderly woman there to let him help her care for her cow. That’s Kek for you:  naively charming; scarred from the traumas of his past, but not hardened.  You can sense the resilience of the very young in his voice.

The story is written in verse, but just like in the novel Sold, it really works well.  The sparse words capture Kek’s innocence, heartache, and hopeful moments with equal precision, and his voice feels both accurate and endearing.  The ending is also sweet, but not saccharine.  I enjoyed this book very much, and think it would be an excellent addition to the middle school classroom. For those of you familiar with the wildly popular Animorphs series of the nineties, this is written by the same author.  Here’s what she says about her book:

“In Kek’s story, I hope readers will see the neighbor child with a strange accent, the new kid in class from some faraway land, the child in odd clothes who doesn’t belong.  I hope they see themselves.”

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.katherineapplegate.com/

Applegate, Katherine.  Home of the Brave. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2007.  249 pp.  Grades 6-8.

If you liked this book (and it was the poetry part that you enjoyed), Sold by Patricia McCormick is also written in verse.  However, it’s for an older crowd.  If you like the immigrant aspect, try Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.

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