Book review: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

With the crazy school year—teaching virtually at the same time as in the classroom—I did not have time to write book reviews as often as I would have liked, but I was still reading! So this summer, I am writing and publishing book reviews for a sizeable stack of work I’ve read. You can expect a review every Monday. Some of the books will be for younger readers—I am previewing books for my own children; some will be for young adult readers—I am previewing books for my students; others will be books I have chosen for myself for various reasons. I hope you’re able to find something you like in one of these reviews ?

Now, on to today’s review:

In one of the classrooms where I teach, copies of this novel were sitting around, so I read it during my lunches. It’s written in verse, so it’s a really fast read.

The novel follows a boy named Kek, who is a refugee from Africa. He has survived a traumatic escape in which he lost his mother (her fate is uncertain) and has come to a very cold portion of the US to live with cousins. He is introduced to new weather, new ways of life, and the challenge of missing his home traditions.

Aside from liking the novel for being a super-fast read, I enjoyed the perspective. For instance, Kek is overwhelmed at the amount of food at the grocery store, something most of us take for granted most of the time. There is humor as well—like when Kek is trying to be helpful and ends up putting his dishes in the washing machine.

The length of the novel does keep us at a bit of a distance from Kek: we are in his thoughts, but there are not enough words to get too deep. There’s just enough to introduce us to his culture. While I enjoyed the fast read, I was left wanting to understand his home life more and to really feel how he missed his culture.

I would definitely recommend this book for younger or struggling readers, as the content allows for a new perspective on the world with an introduction to another culture. It is said that books help to build empathy, and with this book, I can certainly see that happening. It’s a book I’ll have my own kids read when they get older .

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