Home of the Brave
Applegate, K. (2007). Home of the Brave. Square Fish.
Home of the Brave is a book written in verse that guides the reader through Kek’s story of immigrating from Africa to Minnesota. It documents his experiences as a child learning English, learning how to navigate school and social interactions in the state, and mourning the loss of his brother and father (and his missing mother). The story is moving and relatable and also provides the reader with context about what it might be like to move from another country with completely different culture and climate and be forced to acclimate without the help and support of one’s parents. The characters in this story are rich with words and experiences; Kek doesn’t understand American customs and idioms, so reading through his perspective gives a gleam into those experiences. The setting is also descriptive, sharing a lot of information about the Minnesota cold – what it looks like; how it feels – which really allows the reader to feel like they are there beside him. Because this book is in verse, it can end up being more or less intimidating to the reader (depending on the person). For this reason, it can be recommended to children (ages 9+) to read independently or in a school setting as a full class read aloud or independent reading book.
Inside Out and Back Again
Lai, T. (2011). Inside Out & Back Again. Harper Collins.
Inside Out and Back Again is a historical fiction book written in verse. It tells the tale of Ha and her journey of leaving South Vietnam. Through Ha’s experiences, her words are told from the perspective of a child learning and understanding all that goes into immigrating to the United States during a time of war. In one section, appropriately titled “July 4,” Ha recounts how her mother chose the USA over France or other countries where the Vietnamese fled at that time: The hope of college and even scholarships for her sons. Reading on, Ha’s experience was not what her mother was promised; there are many struggles found with classmates being unkind and teachers assuming Ha and her siblings know or understand less than they do. Overall, this book asks for perspective taking on how new immigrant families in American cities and town may feel, know, understand, and need. This book is recommended for children ages 11+ with the hopes that the older the child, the more they will get out of the book beyond just the tales and stories shared.
The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter
Larkin, S. (2020). The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. Read by: Shabazz Larkin, Legend Larkin, Royal
Larkin, Ashley Larkin. Live Oak Media. Audiobook. 11 minutes.
The Thing About Bees was both written and read by Shabazz Larkin. There was a second voice in the narration to show the onset of the book. In the background is music/tunes. Larkin uses wait time as he reads; almost like you would in a read aloud situation. Larkin showed intonation as he read and the sound effects amplified the meaning behind the words. This book is a great informational text because it teaches readers about the importance of bees and includes examples of all of the foods we eat and experiences we have with those items as a result of bee pollination. On a personal note, I love that Shabazz Larkin wrote this book because of his fear of bees and his desire to grow so that he does not pass that fear onto his children. This book could be used with toddlers through early grades children, ages 3-7 as a read aloud for a library or even as a read aloud for an elementary-level science class.
Wings of Fire
Fantasy: The Dragonet Prophecy
Sutherland, T. T. (2012). Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy. Scholastic Press.
The Wings of Fire series is one that is very popular amongst children ages 10+. The Dragonet Prophecy is the first of the series (which currently has 14 books in publication). In this book, there are highs filled with excitement from battles and lows filled with fear from fallouts. Word choice fuels the imagery at play when reading and allows the reader to reenact vivid scenes in their minds. This book is recommended to anyone interested in fantasy books, specifically that lean toward dragons. The fact that this book kicks off a series allows the reader to really invest in the literature and the fate of Clay and the rest of the MudWing dragons/dragonets.
Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. Scholastic Press.
Drama is a coming-of-age graphic novel that follows the trials and tribulations of the protagonist, Callie. In the book, Callie is on the stage-crew for her school’s drama performance; she learns that there is more drama than that performed on-stage. Callie experiences a crush, frustration at school with members of the cast and crew, and everyday dealings. Brightly colored text is used to emphasize sounds in the story. The text compliments the pictures well in this graphic novel and really tells the story of Callie’s experiences. This book can be used as an independent reading book and can be enjoyed by children ages 10 and up.