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Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave

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by Katherine Applegate
     
 

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Kek comes from Africa. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he fallls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter--cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own.

Overview

Kek comes from Africa. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he fallls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter--cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care, an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means "family" in his native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother's fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant's journey from hardship to hope.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her first stand-alone book, Applegate (the Animorphs series) effectively uses free verse to capture a Sudanese refugee's impressions of America and his slow adjustment. After witnessing the murders of his father and brother, then getting separated from his mother in an African camp, Kek alone believes that his mother has somehow survived. The boy has traveled by "flying boat" to Minnesota in winter to live with relatives who fled earlier. An onslaught of new sensations greets Kek ("This cold is like claws on my skin," he laments), and ordinary sights unexpectedly fill him with longing (a lone cow in a field reminds him of his father's herd; when he looks in his aunt's face, "I see my mother's eyes/ looking back at me"). Prefaced by an African proverb, each section of the book marks a stage in the narrator's assimilation, eloquently conveying how his initial confusion fades as survival skills improve and friendships take root. Kek endures a mixture of failures (he uses the clothes washer to clean dishes) and victories (he lands his first paying job), but one thing remains constant: his ardent desire to learn his mother's fate. Precise, highly accessible language evokes a wide range of emotions and simultaneously tells an initiation story. A memorable inside view of an outsider. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Chris Carlson
Kek's brother and father are killed in the Sudan, and he is separated from his mother. A refugee group finds Kek a new life in Minneapolis with his aunt and teenaged cousin. Although Kek finds the culture, economics, and climate of America vastly different from Africa, he makes friends and assimilates easily. He gets a job taking care of a cow because it makes him feel closer to his homeland where his father raised cattle. When the woman who owns the animal is forced to sell her farm, Kek's inventiveness saves the cow from being destroyed, demonstrating his abounding ability to find the positive in hardship. This beautiful story of hope and resilience is written in free verse, a device that allows the author unlimited capacity to use colorful language and literary devices to compare the unfamiliar with the familiar, the positive with the negative. The result is an almost lyrical story of a young African boy who manages to remain upbeat despite the hardships and horror that he has witnessed and despite being thrust into an environment in sharp contrast to what he knows. Kek's voice is particularly strong as he models the difficulties experienced by a new immigrant. This book would make a great read-aloud as well as a discussion starter on the reasons why people choose to immigrate or how they might feel in a strange land. The book highlights the importance of attitude to success, a life lesson worth repeating as well.
Children's Literature
Kek’s life in Sudan is destroyed when his family is attacked. His father and brother are killed, and he becomes separated from his mother. He is sent to join his aunt’s family in Minnesota, where he is encouraged to be grateful for his new home, but Kek does not feel at home. His loss overwhelms him, as does his new, strange environment. He now shares a home with the cousin he so admired back in Sudan, but his cousin’s life has been shifted so dramatically he now seems as lost as Kek. The new country offers beauties and harshness, as do the people who surround Kek. He recognizes hope in an elderly widow’s cow that reminds him of his father’s herds and strives to make meaning in his life as he cares for the cow and its owner, but when her farm must be sold, how can Kek save the cow and himself? The author provides a lyrical journey for her readers as they experience, with Kek, the struggle of re-making an identity and the amazing resilience of hope. Readers older than the stated age range would surely enjoy such a beautiful story. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
From the Publisher

“American culture, the Minnesota climate, and personal identity are examined in this moving first-person novel written in free verse . . . Kek is both a representative of all immigrants and a character in his own right . . . Kek will be instantly recognizable to immigrants, but he is also well worth meeting by readers living in homogeneous communities.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“In her first stand-alone book, Applegate (the Animorphs series) effectively uses free verse to capture a Sudanese refugee's impressions of America and his slow adjustment . . . Prefaced by an African proverb, each section of the book marks a stage in the narrator's assimilation, eloquently conveying how his initial confusion fades as survival skills improve and friendships take root . . . Precise, highly accessible language evokes a wide range of emotions and simultaneously tells an initiation story. A memorable inside view of an outsider.” —Publishers Weekly

“This beautiful story of hope and resilience . . . is an almost lyrical story . . . Kek's voice is particularly strong as he models the difficulties experienced by a new immigrant . . . The book highlights the importance of attitude to success, a life lesson worth repeating as well.” —VOYA

“The boy's first-person narrative is immediately accessible. Like Hanna Jansen's Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You, the focus on one child gets behind those news images of streaming refugees far away.” —Booklist

“[Kek] relates the process of adjusting to his new life in poignant and lyrical free verse, a stylistic choice that helps set the tone of a character who of necessity thinks in images when he can't find the words to carry him from his old language to his new language . . . Kek's observations about the weirdness of American culture and customs will be familiar to immigrants and will cause non-immigrants to see everyday patterns and material possessions in a new light; the evocative spareness of the verse narrative will appeal to poetry lovers as well as reluctant readers and ESL students.” —BCCB

“Beautifully written in free verse . . . a thought-provoking book about a topic sure to evoke the empathy of readers.” —KLIATT

“In an immediate, first-person voice, we get a detailed, emotional glimpse into Kek's adjustment to America and its ways. With exact and accessible language--as well as many evocative metaphors, as Kek tries to acclimate to his new life . . . Applegate gives young readers a compelling account of life as an outsider in America.” —Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (blog)

“Kek's experience is not simply that of an immigrant boy looking to be brave in a new situation. He teaches much, of course, of the things challenging a person recently introduced to a place and culture. He also teaches about preserving the valuable parts of one's own history and culture. But most important, his universal longing to be part of a family, to display bravery and courage, to be accepted, make him just like any young person. His poignant story communicates the shared longings of all young people.” —Children's Literature Network

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312535636
Publisher:
Square Fish
Publication date:
12/23/2008
Edition description:
STRIPPABLE
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
39,524
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.78(d)
Lexile:
NP (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Home of the Brave


By Katherine Applegate

Holtzbrinck Publishers

Copyright © 2007 Katherine Applegate
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8783-1



CHAPTER 1

    SNOW

    When the flying boat
    returns to earth at last,
    I open my eyes
    and gaze out the round window.
    What is all the white? I whisper.
    Where is all the world?

    The helping man greets me
    and there are many lines and questions
    and pieces of paper.

    At last I follow him outside.
    We call that snow, he says.
    Isn't it beautiful?
    Do you like the cold?

    I want to say
    No, this cold is like claws on my skin!
    I look around me.
    Dead grass pokes through
    the unkind blanket of white.
    Everywhere the snow
    sparkles with light
    hard as high sun.
    I close my eyes.
    I try out my new English words:
    How can you live
    in this place called America?
    It burns your eyes!

    The man gives me a fat shirt
    and soft things like hands.
    Coat, he says. Gloves.
    He smiles. You'll get used to it, Kek.

    I am a tall boy,
    like all my people.
    My arms stick out of the coat
    like lonely trees.
    My fingers cannot make
    the gloves work.

    I shake my head.
    I say, This America is hard work.

    His laughter makes little clouds.


    OLD WORDS, NEW WORDS

    The helping man
    is called Dave.
    He tells me he's from the
    Refugee Resettlement Center,
    but I don't know what those
    words are trying to say.

    He isn't tall
    like my father was,
    and there is hair on his face
    the color of clouds before rain.
    His car is red
    and coughs and burps
    when he tries to make it go.
    Doesn't much like
    the cold, either, he says.

    I smile to say I understand,
    although I do not.

    Sometimes Dave speaks English,
    the tangled sounds
    they tried to teach us
    in the refugee camp.
    And sometimes he
    uses my words.
    He's like a song always out of tune,
    missing notes.

    To help him,
    I try some English,
    but my mouth just wants to chew the words
    and spit them on the ground.

    We are like a cow and a goat,
    wanting to be friends
    but wondering if it
    can ever be.


    QUESTIONS

    We drive past buildings,
    everywhere buildings.
    Everywhere cars.
    Everywhere dead trees.
    Who killed all the trees? I ask.

    They're not dead, Dave says.
    This is called winter,
    and it happens every year.
    In spring their leaves will come back.
    You'll see.

    He turns to smile.
    His eyes are wise and calm,
    the eyes of a village elder.
    Your family will be happy
    to see you, Dave says,
    but he doesn't mean my truest family,
    my mother and father and brother.

    I don't answer.
    I reach into my pocket
    and feel the soft cloth
    I carry with me everywhere.
    Blue and yellow,
    torn at the edges,
    the size of my hand,
    soft as new grass after good rain.

    Dave asks, When did you last see
    your aunt and cousin?

    A long time ago, I say.
    Before the camp.

    I can tell that Dave
    has many questions.
    I wonder if all America people
    will be so curious.
    My mouth is going to get very sore,
    stumbling on words all day long.

    We stop at a light
    hung high in the air,
    red and round
    like a baby sun.
    How was the airplane trip?
    Dave asks in English.
    When I don't answer, he tries again,
    using my words:
    Did you like the flying boat?

    I liked it very much, I say.
    I'd like to fly such a boat
    one day myself.
    When Mama comes,
    we'll take a flying boat
    around the world.

    Dave turns to look at me.
    You know, Kek, he says,
    we aren't sure where your mother is.
    His voice has the soft sting of pity in it.
    We don't know if she is—

    She's fine, I tell him,
    and I look out the window
    at the not-dead trees.
    She will come, I say,
    and this time
    I use my words,
    my music.


    WHAT THE HECK

    We drive down a long road
    with many fast cars.
    Still there are buildings,
    but sometimes not.
    I see a long fence
    made of old gray boards.
    And then I see the cow.

    Stop! I yell.
    I feel regret in my heart
    to use such a harsh sound
    with my new helping friend.
    Please stop, I say,
    gently this time.

    What? Dave asks.
    What's wrong?

    Did you not see her?
    The brave cow
    in the snow?
    Dave glances
    in the looking-back glass.
    Cow? Oh, yeah. That used to be
    a big farm. Lot of land around here's
    getting sold off now.
    But that farmer's hanging on.

    I don't understand his words,
    but I can hear that he doesn't
    love cattle as I do,
    and I feel sorry for him.
    I twist in my seat.
    The don't-move belt across my chest
    pulls back.

    Oh, what the heck? Dave says.

    I have not yet learned
    the meaning of heck,
    but I can see that
    it's a fine and useful word,
    because he turns the car around.


    GOD WITH A WET NOSE

    We park by the side
    of the fast-car road.
    Walking through the snow
    is hard work,
    like wading across a river
    wild with rain.

    The cow is near a fine,
    wide-armed,
    good-for-climbing tree.
    To say the truth of it,
    she is not the most beautiful of cows.
    Her belly sags
    and her coat is scarred
    and her face tells me
    she remembers sweeter days.

    My father would not have stood
    for such a weary old woman in his herd,
    and yet to see her here
    in this strange land
    makes my eyes glad.
    In my old home back in Africa,
    cattle mean life.
    They are our reason
    to rise with the sun,
    to move with the rains,
    to rest with the stars.
    They are the way we know
    our place in the world.

    The cow looks past me.
    I can see that she's pouting,
    with only snow and dead grass
    to keep her company.

    I shake my head. A cow can be trouble,
    with her slow, stubborn body,
    her belly ripe with milk,
    her pleading eyes that shine at you
    like river rocks in sun.

    An old woman comes out of the barn.
    She's carrying a bucket.
    Two chickens trot behind her
    scolding and fussing.
    The woman waves.

    Just saying hello to the cow,
    Dave calls.

    Let me know if she answers,
    the woman calls back,
    and she returns to the barn.

    We should go, Dave says.
    Your aunt is expecting us.

    A little longer, I say.
    Please?

    I know cattle are important
    to your people, Dave says.
    Again he tries to use my words.
    A man I helped to settle here
    taught me a saying from Africa.
    I'll bet you would like it:
    A cow is God with a wet nose.

    I laugh. We wait.
    The wind sneaks through my coat.
    My teeth shiver.
    I take off a glove
    and hold out my hand,
    and at last the cow comes to me.

    She moos,
    a harsh and mournful sound.
    It isn't the fault of the cow.
    She doesn't know another way to talk.
    She can't learn
    the way I am learning,
    word
    by slow, slow
    word.

    I stroke her cold, wet coat,
    and for a moment I hold
    all I've lost
    and all I want
    right there in my hand.


    WELCOME TO MINNESOTA

    It's growing dark
    when I say good-bye to the cow
    and we go back to the car to drive again.
    At last we park before a brown building,
    taller than trees.
    Its window-eyes
    weep yellow light.

    Under a street lamp,
    children throw white balls
    at the not-dead trees.
    Snowballs, Dave explains.
    A smiling girl throws
    one of the balls at Dave's car.
    He shakes his head.
    Welcome to Minnesota, he says.

    We climb out of the car.
    The snowball girl's face is red
    and her long brown hair is wet.
    Hi, she says. I'm Hannah.
    You the new kid?
    I'm not sure of the answer,
    so I make my shoulders go up and down.
    Catch, she says,
    and she throws a cold white ball to me.
    It falls apart in my hands.

    I follow Dave across the noisy snow.
    Two times I slip and fall.
    Two times I rise, pants wet, knees burning.

    Take it slow, buddy, Dave says.

    Tears trace my cheeks like tiny knives.
    I look away so Dave will not see my shame.
    How can I trust a place
    where even the ground plays tricks?

    Inside, we climb up many stairs.
    We walk down a long hall,
    passing door after door.
    Dave knocks on one of them,
    and behind it I hear the
    muffled voices of my past.

    Much time has come and gone,
    but still I know the worn, gray voice
    of my mother's sister, Nyatal.
    I hear another voice, too,
    the sound of a young man,
    a strong man.

    The door opens
    and my old life is waiting on the other side


    FAMILY

    I'm hugged and kissed
    and there is much welcoming
    from my aunt.
    She's rounder than I remember,
    with a moon face to match,
    her black eyes set deep.

    My cousin, Ganwar,
    shakes my hand.
    I have learned about shaking hands.
    At the camp they taught us how:
    be firm, but do not squeeze too hard!
    Still, when Ganwar grasps my hand
    we are like two calves in the clouds
    pretending we know how to fly.

    The man's voice belongs to Ganwar,
    and he has my father's height now,
    though Ganwar is thin and reedy
    where my father
    was sturdy with strength.
    His eyes are wary and smart,
    always taking the measure of a person.
    Six long scars line his forehead,
    the marks of manhood
    I watched Ganwar and my brother receive
    in our village ceremony.
    How jealous I had been that day,
    too young for such an honor.

    I try hard not to look at
    another scar,
    the place where Ganwar's left hand
    should be,
    round and bare and waiting
    like an ugly question
    no one can answer.

    The night Ganwar lost his hand
    was the night I lost
    my father and brother,
    the night of men in the sky with guns,
    the night the earth opened up like a black pit
    and swallowed my old life whole.

    My aunt holds my face in her hands
    and I see that she's crying.
    I know her to be a woman of many sorrows,
    carved down to a sharp stone
    by her luckless life.
    She isn't like my mother,
    whose laughter is
    like bubbling water from a deep spring.

    I look into her eyes
    and then my tears come hard and fast,
    not for her, not for my cousin,
    not even for myself,
    but because when I look there,
    I see my mother's eyes
    looking back at me.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. Copyright © 2007 Katherine Applegate. Excerpted by permission of Holtzbrinck Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Katherine Applegate is the author of several best-selling young adult series, including Animorphs and Roscoe Riley Rules. Home of the Brave, her first standalone novel, received the SCBWI 2008 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction and the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award. "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," she says. "I hope they will see themselves." She lives with her family in Irvine, California.

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