Home of the Brave

This book, written by Katherine Appelgate and published in America by Feiwel and Friends in 2007 goes to every workshop with me – and never fails to make an impression, whether to elders in a writing workshop or juniors in a reading one.

It is the extremely moving story, told in free verse, of Kek, a refugee from Sudan who finds himself in Minnesota in America, in the snow. His family are killed or missing. He is about to be taken to stay with an aunt, who has already come to America with some of her family. He is adrift in a cold, white world, lost.

The moment I most love is the section (the page where the book falls open on its own now) when Kek sees a ‘brave cow, in the snow.’ The social worker who is driving him stops the car and lets him be with the cow.

‘She moos
A harsh and mournful sound.
It isn’t the fault of the cow.
She doesn’t know any other way to talk.
She can’t learn
The way I’m learning,
By slow, slow word.

I stroke her cold, wet coat
And for a moment I hold
All I’ve lost
And all I want
Right there in my hand.’

This is a truly beautiful and inspiring work, one that moves me every time I read it and makes children think about home, and loss, and love of land.

Home of the Brave won the SCBWI 2008 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and is a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honour book.

A very unusual and well-produced short video about the book is available at:

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