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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Home of the Brave
y Katherine Applegate

Publishing Information: Feiwel & Friends: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9780312367657
: 249 p.
Ages: 9 & Up

This modern day free verse novel recounts the arrival of Kek to America in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter. Kek has come from the hot dry land of Sudan and from the recent experience of losing most of his family through a violent war. His only family is an aunt and cousin who also scarred physically and emotionally by the war. Kek is overwhelmed with English words, the “TV machine," and American customs. As the winter thaws into spring, Kek discovers how to function in his new environment with the help of some unlikely people; a girl in foster care, a farm woman and an old cow. Kek’s journey to find the meaning of his new life and home as the lone survivor in his immediate family will captivate everyone. Applegate uses are few words but places so much emotion in the choice of words.

Book Talk:
Introduce the book as a story about an African boy coming to America.

Read opening verse:
When the flying boat
returns to earth at last,
I open my eyes
and gazed out the round window.
What is all the white? I whisper.
Where is all the world?

Discuss: what a flying boat might be and why the world has disappeared.

Say: Kek must quickly learn how to survive in this foreign environment.

Ask: Imagine if you had never seen snow. How might it feel to be surrounded by unfamiliar sights, including the snow that covers all of the earth? (This will help the children see America through unfamiliar eyes)

Describe: What do you think happens when Kek wants to help out his aunt by washing the dishes piling up in the sink? Well…Kek heard his cousin mention that the machine for washing was down in the basement. (This will introduce a funny, in a nails on a chalkboard sort of way, part of the story.)

Close: When you read this book, you will experience an immigrant’s view of America. You may feel like laughing or crying all while reading the same page. You may experience a new understanding of how it feels to be alone in a foreign world and then the joy of discovering a new life among the strangeness.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Minneapolis (Minn.)

Awards & Reviews:
Golden Kite Award (Teens), 2007
Josette Frank Award, 2008
Rhode Island Children's Book Award Nominee, 2009
Titlewave Best Books of the Year, 2007
Titlewave Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers

Booklist, July 15, 2007, p. 61
Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, February 2007
Kirkus Reviews
, August 1, 2007
Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2007
School Library Journal
, October 1, 2007, p. 143 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Compare and contrast Sudan with Minnesota as home for Kek.
  2. Discuss: What is a home?
  3. How do you treat a new or different member of your school community? Do you view it differently after reading this book? How would you have treated Kek?
  4. Imagine how you might feel visiting a foreign country. What would miss the most? Write a journal of an imaginary trip to Africa.
  5. Chose a passage from the book. Discuss why the author chose the specific words for that passage.
  6. Why do you think the title, Home of the Brace was chosen for this book?
  7. How does the cover make you feel? Could you design a different cover?
  8. Describe another situation that Kek might encounter (like the washing machine) while adjusting to American culture.

Curriculum Tie-ins :
Current Issues
Refugees – discuss the plight of the World’s refugees
Any current newspaper
Essential Question: How can learning about the suffering around the world help us understand people better?

Immigration: past and present
            Discuss the United States policy on immigration (legal and illegal)
            Set up a debate – have students research and choose sides, then formally discuss the issues

Discuss the use of free verse. Have students write poetry.
            Write a poem imagining a visit to Kek’s country
            Write a poem that welcomes Kek to our country
Essential Question: Why is poetic format used in this book? What might the author gain from utilizing this format?

Related Websites:
Author's Website:

A short biography on the author and some series discussion:

A comprehensive site on the career of Katherine Applegate:

A video book talk given by the author:

A discussion of the book and an interview with the author:

Between Two Worlds by Joan Lingard, 1991
The Code: The 5 Secrets of Teen Success
by Asgedom Mawi, 2003
Don't Call Me Ishmael
by Michael Gerard Bauer, 2007
Dream Freedom by Sonia Levitin, 2000
Ethan Suspended by Pamel Ehrenberg, 2007
Give Me Shelter: Stories about Children Who Seek Asylum, 2007
Home is East
by Many Ly, 2005
How I Became an American by Karen Gündisch & James Skofield, 2002
Journey of Sparrows by Fran Leeper Buss, 1991
The King of Mulberry Street
by Donna Jo Napoli, 2005
Little Cricket by Jackie Brown, 2004
Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming, 2005
The Other Side of Truth by Beverly Naidoo, 2001
Out of War: True Stories fromt he Front Lines of the Children's Movement for Peace in Columbia by Sara Cameron, 2001 (2004 RITBA Nominee)
Over a Thousand Hills I walk With You by Hanna Jansen, 2006
Refugee Boyby Benjamin Zephaniah, 2001
by Gordon Korman, 2007
Shattered: Stories of Childre and War, 2001
Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl's Story (2005 RITBA Nominee)
Two Suns in the Sky
, by Miriam Bat-Ami, 1999
Under the Parsimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples, 2005
Web of Lies by Beverly Naidoo

Other Books by the Author:
The World's Best Jinx McGee, 1992
Ocean City series, 1993-1995
Making Out series, 1994-2000
Summer series, 1995-1996
See You in September, 1995
Animorphs series, 1996-2002
Everworld series, 1998-2001
Remnants series, 2001-2002
Making Waves series, 2001-2002
Mother May I, 2002
Buffalo Storm, 2007

About the Author:
Katherine was born in Michigan in 1956. She has lived in Texas, Florida, Minnesota, California, and Illinois. She presently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Applegate is married and has two children; a son, named Jake and an adopted daughter, Julia, from China. She also shares her home with 2 cats.

She always knew she wanted to be a writer. Well, either a writer or a veterinarian. She managed to morph these two goals into the series of books called Animorphs. In this way, she could write and satisfy her love of animals while researching an accurate portrayal of the characters.

She has written prolifically and under many pseudonyms. She has officially retired from the Animorphs series. Recently her career has changed course to include stand-alone titles. Such as: Buffalo Storm and Home of the Brave.

Applegate enjoys traveling, reading, and gardening. She is currently working on publishing a website about her works.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair