Audio read by Dominic Hoffman (wonderfully)
Listening Library, 2007
3 unabridged cds
2 hrs 47 min.
Excellent story, great descriptions that include many similes, believable point-of-view
Kek arrives in Minnesota, fresh from a refugee camp in Africa (Sudan is mentioned once, but otherwise "Africa" is the only reference) alone, with only a volunteer named Dave to guide him. He has learned a tiny bit of English in the refugee camp, but everyone talks too quickly and uses too many idioms for him to understand. He misses his family, the sunshine and heat, and his father's cows. His father and brother have been killed and his mother is missing. He goes to live with his aunt and older cousin, also fairly new to the U.S.
It's fascinating to hear the things people say and the way that Kek processess them. I listened to this in the car, and the reader did a superb job making it feel like you were in Kek's head. Imagine being in the fifth grade, totally displaced from your home and family....and even the language is different. I can't. No way. But this happens to thousands and thousands of regugees coming to our country all the time. This is a wonderful book that allows kids (and adulst!) to put themselves into those shoes.
Kek makes friends, has caring teachers, and is a survivor. After reading Katherine Paterson's book about refugess from Kosovo and the few picture books I've read recently about African refugees, it certainly makes me think about lending a hand in some way.
Even though some websites say this book is for 12+, I will certainly not hesitate to have my fourth graders read this. It talks about shooting and killing in a bit of an abstract way, and Kek's cousin has had his hand cut off. However, unless a fourth grader is ultra-protected and never watches any tv (including the news) and with the guidance of a teacher or parent, there's no reason I can think of to worry. And listening to this reader would be a great plus!