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Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate (Newbery winner for The One and Only Ivan) assumed the voice and thoughts of a lonely, wise, and heartbreakingly unforgettable gorilla in The One and Only Ivan. In Home of the Brave, she brings us into the mind, memory, and language of Kek, a young refugee boy from an African village, who has just set foot in Minnesota. We have the occasion to experience details, curiosities, and language of our own country, as deconstructed through the eyes of Kek. The book is written in verse; Applegate’s writing is thoughtful, subtle, and often humorous.

The reader has an intimate view of the world as Kek sees it, and navigates with him through this new environment, and the unfamiliar, meaningless words that he must use to describe it. It is an experience to read and a heartbreaking and endearing voice that remains with you long after. It is similar to The One and Only Ivan in this respect, and also recalls another one of my favorites, Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, in its ability to draw the reader into the perspective of an outsider.

An easy read, yet worthy of attention from older readers as well. Ages 8+

--reviewed by Chantal, Books Inc. Mountain View

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(Photo posted with parents' permission at our October 2013 Jeff Kinney Event!)

True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Set in the bayous of East Texas, this tells of the struggle to save an tiny unspoiled gem of wilderness and rural living fro two separate threats. In one plotline a boy named Chap helps his mom run a pie shop beloved by the locals for the exquisite pies made from sugarcane of the swamp surrounding them. He mourns his grandfather who imparted Chap all manner of lore. Now their way of life is threatened by one of those greedy cartoonish developers who often show up in this sort of story.

Unbeknownst to the humans, a pair of young raccoons are concerened by another attack on the swamp, in the form of a family of terrifing feral pigs crashing towards the famous sugarcane. these plucky little critters, Bingo and J'miah are the Information Scouts of the swamp. Their clever kin have served the swamp for untold generations watching for danger. When a crisis like this arises they must wake the Sugar Man, the legendary protector of the bayou-- part Bigfoot and part Paul Bunyan.


The folksy venacular will turn some readers away, it is laid on thick. Comparisons to Carl Hiaasen are inevitable. I fould that the denizens of Sugar Man Swamp also his the same sweet spots as Pogo and Margery Sharp's The Rescuers. There's a bluesy, rockin' rhythm and loads of humor, heart, and courage. Readers will be reminded that an ecosystem does include people as well as animals; that our history and family stories join with the turns of the seasons and the calls of unseen birds. --Reviewed by Chris of Compass Books, SFO Terminal 3

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