Home of the Brave
When browsing Amazon for more books by the author Allen Say I came across one called Home of the Brave. Out of curiosity I put the title into the Amazon search to see what would be thrown up. And the search threw up another book with the same title. That made me wonder about the titles author choose and how similar the stories might be if they choose the same title.
These stories not only share a title but have some common features that are worth considering.
For me the front covers are in contrast to my association with the quote ‘Home of the Brave’. You have what appears to be a line of beach huts (very English to me) on one front cover and an African with his cow on the other front cover. But on closer inspection of the second front cover there is a clue that the book might not be set in Africa – the house in the background is not typical of images of buildings in Africa that I have seen.
Yet both books deal with a particularly difficult subject, the impact of war on the individual. I have no direct experience of war but these books challenged me to think of the unexpected ramifications of war and how people work through painful episodes in one’s life.
I think both books deal with the concept of bravery and how individuals face it, they deal with finding friendship in unexpected places and how circumstances the main character has no direct control over forces them to confront difficult aspect of life.
The title also made me reflect on what does home mean and how many different ways can bravery be shown?
Home of the Brave by Allen Say
With this beautifully illustrated book the author illustrator appears to be exploring how members of minority groups , in this case Japanese, are treated when their host country are threatened by members of their group. Also the unresolved emotions the blanket behaviour engenders in the minority community that is not often discussed or resolved.
An ill-fated kayak trip sends a young man on an unexpected journey into a sterile landscape set in the past. There he meets two young children labelled like parcels who ask to be taken home. Who would leave young children alone in a desert? Where was he? How will he get home? Can he get home?
Reeling from the circumstances he finds himself in, the young man does not understand what is happening, the children request to go home and is unable to read the writing on their labels. In his quest to find out where they come from and to get them home, he walks them across a desert where he comes across a line of huts. The children are reluctant to enter the huts, but, he investigates one in which he finds another label. This one has his name on it (a technique that links the past and present). Roused from his surprised by a sudden noise he returns outside to find the that there were no longer two children, their numbers had multiplied, all were wearing parcel tags and asking to be taken home.Again a noise erupts to the accompanying explosion of light, these come together to intensify his apprehension and escalates into fear for him and the children as the noise turns into a shouted order to the children to return to their huts.
The shouting plus the loud voices of the children becomes the loud voices of modern children that wakes the young man (I think it is a shame that this technique was used). Were his experiences real or imagined? The tag plus the feeling of resolution when it’s released suggest to the young man that something happened.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegat
As with Home of the Brave by … Say one of the themes in this book is coming to terms with the impact of war. Kek a young Sudanese boy comes to America after surviving war within his own country. He has lost everything, his father has been killed, his mother is missing and his village destroyed. But, he has been given this chance to rebuild his life in another country. Fortunately for him, some of his relatives have also been given this opportunity and it is on his journey to join them that he spots a single cow in a field. The cow provides him with a link to his home country and as the story progresses it also provides him with the means to resolve issues.
Kek initially thinks that he has left hostilities behind but his experiences in his new school shatters that thought when it is made clear to his that some do not want him there. But not all Americans feel like this and he makes friends. Despite this his feelings of displacement comes back. This is compounded by his inability to contribute to his keep as he would have done in Sudan. Building up courage he finds his way back to the cow and comes to an arrangement with its owner, in exchange for looking after it he get a small wage but the more importantly he feels a link with his past and begins to get back his feeling of worth and can now face his fears. This employment also act as a catalyst for the resolution of difficult personal issues for his cousin who he is staying with, the owner of the cow as well as Kek.
Like the young man in Allen Say’s ‘Home of the Brave’, the past and the present are linked through Kek and healing of deeply felt hurts begin to resolved because of the characters actions.
At the moment I think that somehow choosing the same title appears to have inadvertently produced stories that tackle similar themes and come to similar resolutions.