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Home of the Brave Paperback – December 23, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kek, a young Sudanese refugee, is haunted by guilt that he survived. He saw his father and brother killed, and he left his mother behind when he joined his aunt's family in Minnesota. In fast, spare free verse, this debut novel by nonfiction writer Applegate gets across the immigrant child's dislocation and loss as he steps off the plane in the snow. He does make silly mistakes, as when he puts his aunt's dishes in the washing machine. But he gets a job caring for an elderly widow's cow that reminds him of his father's herds, and he helps his cousin, who lost a hand in the fighting. He finds kindness in his fifth-grade ESL class, and also racism, and he is astonished at the diversity. The boy's first-person narrative is immediately accessible. Like Hanna Jansen's Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You (2006), the focus on one child gets behind those news images of streaming refugees far away. Rochman, Hazel --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Beautiful. Thank you for publishing this book. Thank Katherine Applegate for writing it.” ―Karen Hesse

“Moving . . . Kek is both a representative of all immigrants and a character in his own right.” ―School Library Journal, Starred Review

“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.” ―Voice of Youth Advocates

“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

“The evocative spareness of the verse narrative will appeal to poetry lovers as well as reluctant readers and ESL students.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312535635
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312535636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katherine Applegate's many books include the Roscoe Riley Rules chapter book series, a picture book entitled The Buffalo Storm, and the award-winning novel, Home of the Brave. With her husband, Michael Grant, she wrote the hugely popular series Animorphs, which has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the "Shopping Mall Gorilla." The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry. He was a beloved celebrity at the zoo, which houses the nation's largest collection of western lowland gorillas, and was well known for his paintings, which he "signed" with a thumb-print.

Katherine lives in California with her husband and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Sandhya Nankani on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having been an arrival to this country at age 12, I've always been interested in books that explore questions such as "What is home?" "What does it mean to be a stranger in a new land?" and "How does one begin to belong?"

A novel written in free verse, Home of the Brave is a poignant story about an African war refugee from Sudan named Kek who arrives in the US in the thick of winter in--of all places--Minnesota. His father and brother have been killed, his mother is missing, and he has lost everything about his life that he has ever known. Welcome to America.

From a dry, hot land where he was part of a nomadic herding tribe, Kek has arrived in a freezing cold country where he must not only learn a new language, but also make friends and cultivate hope for his future. Usually the optimist, even Kek feels distraught upon his arrival at his new home
In the course of this tender tale, Kek makes friends--with a neighbor living in foster care, with an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and with an aging cow named Gol (which means "family" in his native language). His relationship with Gol is critical to his sense of belonging--and interestingly, it's one where language is not important.

Through a combination of touching and humorous vignettes (my favorite being the time when he puts his aunt's dishes in the "washing machine," i.e. the laundry!), Applegate allows us to accompany Kek on his journey to find "home." And, isn't that something we all want to find?

Once in a while a children's story comes along that carries you away with lyrical language, an authentic voice, and a story that allows you to make connections much larger than its plot. For me, Home of the Brave did all of the above. I'd highly recommend it as a companion read to Shaun Tan's Arrival, as well as on reading lists that deal with refugees, immigration, and home.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on December 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Katherine Applegate's HOME OF THE BRAVE is another novel in verse that will appeal to boys as well as girls. It may help that plenty of middle grade readers already know Applegate from the ANIMORPHS series, but this book has a completely different feel to it.

HOME OF THE BRAVE is about Kek, a Sudanese immigrant who recently arrived in America after witnessing the death of his father and brother. He left his mother behind and wonders every day if she is alive. The poems that explore Kek's emotional state are poignant and accessible to young readers, and the more traumatic scenes are set alongside lighter stories of Kek adapting to life in America and experiencing new things, from snow to washing machines.

This is a kid-friendly story (those who love animals will have an additional connection) that explores a dramatic issue in current events in a manner that is personal, sensitive, and hopeful.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Author Katherine Applegate's novel HOME OF THE BRAVE is memorable and haunting. In spare verse filled with detailed imagery, she introduces us to Kek, an African refugee struggling to come to terms with the loss of his immediate family and his new life in America. On his trip from the airport to the Minneapolis home of his aunt, he spots a tired old cow on a tiny farm. He names the cow, Gol, and she becomes both his link to the past and his hope for the future.

Kek stays in the home of his aunt and his older cousin, Ganwar, who has lost a hand in the fighting in the Sudan. Kek makes new friends: young Hannah (a foster child), an older woman named Lou who owns the cow Gol, and his new ESL teacher, Ms. Hernandez. He refuses to stop hoping that his missing mother will be found, even though his immigration supervisors tell him she is most likely dead.

There are so many things to love about this story. It's very readable and the action moves quickly, so even reluctant readers will find themselves caught in the story. We see America through the heart and mind of a young immigrant. Kek comes alive for us, and soon we are seeing the world through his eyes. He faces both small and large challenges, but he takes action by finding a job on Lou's farm and urging his older, embittered cousin to join him. He helps his friend Hannah reconnect with her lost mother, and ultimately finds a new home for the cow, Gol, when Lou decides to sell her farm.

There are no wasted words in this story. Every page moves the story forward, and every word paints a vivid picture of Kek's world. By the end of the novel, I felt I'd gained a renewed respect for the idea of America as the "home of the brave."

I recommend this story to readers at all levels.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TeacherReader on February 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed Home of the Brave. I am planning to use this book with a small group of 5th graders in a very rural part of the US and I just kept thinking how wonderfully this book will open up new worlds for them. Applegate helps us think about what it must be like to be a refugee in this radically different place, and to carry with you so much pain from your homeland.

I wish Applegate had Kek refer to Sudan or his village rather than "Africa" so often. The frequent use of "Africa" isn't really authentic and tends to perpetuate the common American view that Africa is rather homogeneous. However, I understand her decision to make this as universal a story as possible.

My only other concern was that, at times, I didn't feel like Applegate did enough work paring down her sentences into poetic form. Nikki Grimes has written about the novels-in-verse trend in which authors simply break sentences into small lines. Usually Home of the Brave maintained a poetic nature, but occasionally it slipped into simply short sentences.
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