Home of the Brave
I just finished reading Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave. There were a bunch of blogs that mentioned it as a must-read of the year, so I put my name on on the waiting list at the library to have it sent my way. It took months, literally, for me to get it, and when I did, I committed the cardinal sin, I judged the book by its cover. The cover was so plain that I was not excited to read it. I pushed it to the bottom of my "to read" pile, and finished up some other books. Then when it was the only book left to read, I packed it in my suitcase to take with me to Cancun. After settling in my hotel (having a baby did not allow for reading on the plane like I usually do), I cracked open the book on my warm veranda and moaned, "It's a poem? The whole thing?" Nevertheless, I began reading . . . and I couldn't stop. The narrative flowed quickly, and I found myself stopping and reading it out loud so I could savor the imagery that ignited all of my senses.
Frequently I found myself trying to figure out how long it would have taken to write this book. One single-page poem for me takes hours, days, etc. I can't even imagine a novel-length narrative. But Katherine did it, and it is beautiful. Many times I forgot I was reading a poem, but the poignant sights, sounds, smells and raw feelings stirred the English teacher in me. I wished I had discovered this book sooner. I wished I could have used this book in class. I wished I could have had such a clear and well-written example of narrative poem that so perfectly illustrated the definition of poetry I taught in class--poetry is like concentrate. You take what you want to say, then you take all the "water" out--the unnecessary words and phrases, leaving only the strongest and best parts. Reading a poem should be like taking a drink of concentrate without the water--it should shock the mind and the senses. Katherine Applegate does this.