Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate

December 16, 2016

Review by Sal Meehan

What would you do if in one year your father and brother die, your mom becomes missing, and you have to live in a new country where you can’t speak the language? In Home of the Brave, we learn about the hardest year in the life of Kek, an immigrant from Africa. He moves to Minnesota after being in a refugee camp. Using poetry, the author, Katherine Applegate, tells this story of sadness, loneliness, discovery, and a new chance at life through Kek’s prospective.Prior to living in America, Kek lived in the Southern Sudan with his mother, father and brother. Kek loved helping his father milk and feed their cows. But when men with guns and knives attack his village, only Kek and his mother survive. They flee into the forest but Kek ends up in a refugee camp, and his mother goes missing. Ultimately, Kek is put on a “flying boat” to America.

In America, Kek meets Dave, his first friend. They travel to Minnesota and Kek sees snow for the first time. America is much colder than his home in the Southern Sudan. He thinks the cold is “like claws” on his skin. Kek doesn’t know how he will be able to live in this new country.

As he opens the door to his new home, Kek is relieved to see his Aunt and Cousin Ganwar. Ganwar helps Kek around the house and takes him to school. At school, he meets other immigrants from different countries. All of them have trouble speaking English. Although Kek has a new family, he is slow in making friends until he meets a girl named Hannah. He finds another friend in an old woman named Lou that gives Kek a job on the farm. Kek finds a little happiness when he gets to take care of a cow he names Gol, which means “family”. This reminds him of the work he had done with his father.

During this time, Kek believes his mother is still alive even though he has not seen her since they fled into the forest. People search the refugee camps, but they cannot find her. Dave and Kek’s cousin Ganwar tell Kek that his mother is probably dead. But Kek never gives up and finds the strength to keep believing his mother will come back to him.

I give this book four out of five stars. The best part is that it is written in poetry. The author is able to express the complicated emotions that Kek is going through during this horrible time through simple verses. My favorite passage is on page 248, when Kek finally finds his mom:

“I can’t find words.

There are no words, not in my old language,

not in my new one.We walk together,

like one person,

her arm tight around my shoulders,

and the air is wild with talking and

laughter and questions,

so many questions,

but I don’t speak.”

In this quote, the author expresses how happy you can be to see someone that you can’t even find the words to describe the amount of happiness you feel. Additionally, I found this story about Kek’s life amazing because I don’t know if I would have the strength to go though what Kek did.

OTHER RECENT BOOK REVIEWS

Crossing, by Andrew Fukuda 

Dangerous, by Shannon Hale 

Matilda, by Roald Dahl 

Swiss Family Robinson, Johan David Wyss