Home Of The Brave Summary & Study Guide

Katherine Applegate

Home Of The Brave

  • 50-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 68 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English teacher, professional writer and editor
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Home Of The Brave Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “Home Of The Brave” by Katherine Applegate includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 68 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Hope and Family.

Plot Summary

Home of the Brave is a 2008 juvenile novel by Katherine Applegate that is written entirely in free verse. The story revolves around the protagonist, a young boy named Kek, who has fled from violence and upheaval in his native Sudan and traveled alone to the United States. Kek’s father and older brother were killed in an attack on their camp, and Kek was forced to leave his mother behind in order to save his own life. He tries to assimilate into American culture while waiting for word about his mother. Along the way, he learns the English language, embraces school wholeheartedly, and becomes friends with an eclectic group, including a girl in foster care, an old farmwoman, and her cow. Above all, Kek’s boundless capacity for hope stands out as a beacon of inspiration for his friends and family.

Divided into four main sections and an epilogue, Home of the Brave is narrated from Kek’s first-person perspective. At the beginning of the novel, Kek is picked up by Dave from an airport in Minnesota. Kek is surprised at the snow and cold weather and a bit frustrated at the language barrier between Dave and himself. Dave helps Kek dress for the frigid climate and takes him to his new home: Kek’s aunt’s apartment. On the way, Kek asks Dave to stop at a dilapidated farm they pass by when he sees an old cow standing in the snowy field. Cows were vital for Kek’s people in Sudan, and this cow suddenly reminds him of the home he has forever lost.

At the apartment, Kek is reunited with his aunt, Nyatal, and his older cousin, Ganwar, both of whom bear physical and psychological scars from the attack on their camp. Dave helps Kek get settled in, and then Kek is left with the awkwardness of facing family members whom he no longer feels he knows well. Ganwar lost his hand during the raid, as well as his best friend, Kek’s older brother, Lual. Kek’s presence in the apartment is an unwelcome reminder of everything that Ganwar will never have again.

Kek learns that the Refugee Resettlement Center is actively looking for his mother in other refugee camps in Africa, but he is told that the chances of finding her are slim. Nevertheless, Kek clings stubbornly to his hope that he will see his mother again someday. Dave helps Kek purchase school clothes and Kek begins his year in an ESL class. He is amazed by the opportunity to learn in a school with his own large desk and surrounded by classmates from all over the world. Even his teacher, Ms. Hernandez, is an immigrant, and serves as a calm mentor for Kek when he is overwhelmed by his new life.

At lunch, Kek begins a friendship with Hannah, a young girl who lives in his apartment complex. Hannah lives with a foster family while her mother completes in-patient drug rehabilitation. Knowing all too well the feelings of loss and uncertainty, Hannah reaches out to guide Kek through his first few months in America. She also helps him out when, in an attempt to take the burden off of his aunt’s shoulders, Kek tries to wash the dishes in the clothes washer and breaks all of them.

Despite his cousin Ganwar’s cynical and bitter attitude toward America—he tells Kek that they will never be allowed to really be American—Kek decides to take matters in his own hands and get a job. With Hannah’s help, he takes the bus to the farm he saw on his first day and offers to care for the farmer’s old cow and property. Kek’s enthusiasm and earnestness win over Lou, the farmer, and she agrees to pay Kek a small salary to care for the cow.

At school, Kek’s class helps him to name Lou’s cow, and he chooses to call her Gol, which means “family” in his language. Kek blossoms while working at the farm and grows closer to Gol, who reminds him of his past, present, and future. Kek manages to secure a position for Ganwar at the farm as well, and through this opportunity, Ganwar begins to come out of his shell and find some hope in his existence. Meanwhile, Kek learns more about America life by accompanying Hannah to the grocery store, where he bursts into tears at the sight of so much food,  and to the mall, where he buys new dishes for his aunt and is too frightened to use the elevator.

As Kek continues to adapt to America, he also suffers from survivor’s guilt, often wondering why he made it here when so many others—including his family members—did not. Despite these feelings, he continues to look for the positive in life, some of which is aided by his lack of understanding about social customs and idioms. He knows enough to be angry when three racist boys harass him about spending time with Hannah, a white girl, but learns to leave these feelings behind and look forward.

Kek’s biggest challenge arrives when Lou hurts herself and is forced to sell the farm. Worst of all, Gol will no longer have a home, and who will buy an elderly cow? In anger and frustration, Kek runs from the farm and refuses to go back, despite Ganwar and Lou’s pleas. More bad news arrives when Dave tells Kek that the center has been unable to locate his mother. Feeling upset and guilty for leaving his mother behind, Kek decides to run away and take a bus to the airport. There, he can fly back home and try to find his mother.

On the way to the airport, he asks the bus driver to stop when he sees Gol standing alone in her pasture. He runs over to her, then climbs up the nearby tree when he hears someone approaching. It is Ganwar, who followed Kek when Kek left the apartment. The two have a heart-to-heart conversation, in which Ganwar confesses his admiration of his stalwart cousin and tries to talk him into staying. Lou comes outside and asks the boys to help her with Gol. They go in the house for cookies and Kek realizes that running away is not the best decision to make. He asks Lou if he can go back to work with Gol until the farm is sold.

Kek is then struck by a brilliant idea: they will take Gol to the zoo so she can be adopted. When he visited the zoo with his ESL class, Kek noted that there were no cows there. With the help of Lou, Ganwar, Hannah, and the local police, Kek leads Gol from the farm, through traffic, and to the zoo. There, he and his friends convince the zoo director to accept Gol as the newest member of the zoo. Kek whispers a special wish in Gol’s ear and watches as she, like Kek, goes off to her new life.

Fifteen months later, Kek is with his family and friends at the airport. His mother has been found and he is waiting to be reunited with her. When she arrives, they hug, but Kek can’t find the words to speak to his mother. As they walk through the airport, they approach the elevator, something that had once scared Kek. As his mother hesitates, Kek takes her hand and welcomes her to her new home.

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