Home of the Brave

by Katherine Applegate

“When the flying boat / returns to earth at last / I open my eyes / and gaze... read more

“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?” Kek is feeling the disconcerting displacement and overwhelming loss that comes with being a refugee. While he’s grateful to be with his aunt and cousin, who are already settled, although struggling, in America, he is also filled with guilt—his father and brother were killed, and his mother disappeared in their harrowing journey to a refugee camp to escape the fighting that tore their lives apart in Sudan. Arriving in Minneapolis in the midst of winter, there is nothing in the landscape to remind Kek of his homeland until he spots a cow on the drive from the airport into the city. Kek and his family were cattle herders. With the help of Hannah, a girl living in his aunt’s building, Kek takes a bus back to the farm and convinces Lou, the woman who is struggling to keep it going, to let him work for her. He doesn’t care about money—a good thing because she has little to spare—he just craves the companionship of the cow and the sense of calm that comes over him when he’s with her. But Kek finds that friendship, as well as a sense of purpose, also help lift the weight of his sorrow, and help him deal with the challenges of life in a new land. Katherine Applegate’s quiet, stirring novel in verse only once specifies Kek’s homeland. Her story is told in the restrained yet powerful voice of a boy for whom it is simply, profoundly, thought of as “home.” (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

show less