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Every time a student saw this book sitting in my “Ms. Fitz is Reading….” display, I got the same response – “I LOVE THAT BOOK!” And it’s easy to see why. In Home of the Brave, author Katherine Applegate has taken the elusive, hard to understand, notoriously politicized topic of immigration and laid it out in a lovable, kid-friendly, incredibly human way. Written in verse that’s not quite prose but not quite poetry, Home of the Brave follows Kek as he emigrates from his home in Africa and begins his new life in Minnesota with extended family that recently made the same journey. Readers get to experience the joy, confusion, and homesickness with Kek as he experiences distinctly American things that we never give a second thought – puffy winter coats, french fries, washing machines in the basements of our apartment buildings. Kek’s character is so optimistic and pure that it makes your heart ache – it’s impossible not to root for him as he assimilates into his new home’s culture, attempting to make friends and school and find a job to help his family pay their bills. I’m sure that critics will take issue with the fact that Kek paints an unrealistic generalization of immigrants, making them all seem like golden-hearted, hard-working, gracious new citizens – but if you read closely, Applegate does round out the picture. Kek’s cousin, Ganwar, struggles to get used to his new home, appearing lazy and obstinate at first. Predictably, Ganwar is just homesick and once he learns his new surroundings he straightens out, but still. A great book to start thinking about how lucky we are to be Americans, and just how much we have to give and share.
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