Katherine Applegate‘s beautifully crafted and immensely readable novel in verse, Home of the Brave, has as its narrator Kek, who begins his story at the moment his plane from Sudan touches down in America. As he adapts to his new home with his Aunt and older cousin Ganwar, we learn about his roots and the life he has had to leave behind him as a result of conflict; and we follow him through trials and tribulations, as he makes friends and gets a job looking after a cow, who eventually has a transforming effect on his life – and becomes the centerpiece of a glorious climax.
Readers will feel drawn to Kek, and will want everything to work out for him. They will empathise with the happy, fun-loving boy who is always there, even if he is sometimes difficult to find under the strains and stress of his situation. This extract makes you laugh along with Kek and then brings you up short with the stark reality of the effect of conflict on his life:
“My brother Lual was Ganwar’s age,
and just as tall.
Maybe that’s why he tried
always to tell me what to do.
I would laugh,
and once I even slipped
two snakes onto his sleeping mat
while he lay snoring.
The whole village awoke to his screams.
I know it was wrong to do,
but they were harmless snakes,
and when I saw Lual’s face
I laughed until
my eyes rained.
Every day Lual scolded,
and every day I thought,
Lual, please just be my brother.
I don’t need two fathers!
I didn’t know that too soon
I would not have any.”
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