Friday, January 19, 2007

Home of the Brave

I don't usually use words such as "sad, dark and haunting" to describe a picture book. But Allen Say's Home of the Brave deals with a sad, dark and haunting time in our country's history.

The book tells -- in beautifully rendered symbols, images and dreamlike sequences -- of a Japanese internment camp. A man, seemingly caught in a nightmare, encounters an abandoned camp and children who chant, "Take us home, take us home!" This was perhaps the most affecting image for me ... the children, and their sense of abandonment and desolation.

My girls were somber as we read. We had talked a little bit about what the camps were, but this was their first literary encounter with them. We talked a bit afterward about prejudice, discrimination, and even about current debates over racial profiling.

Home of the Brave is not a happy book, but it's an excellent one. I can't say I'm happy we read it, but I think it was important for us to do so.

It will be remembered.


K said...

I love Allen Say. Our first experience with him was Emma's Rug. Since it bears the same title as one of my girls, it caught my eye. In fact, I was just looking at it the other day and thought "we should read that again!" Thanks for giving me another inspiration to do so, Karen!

K said...

OK, what a dork I am... that line should read, "Since it bears the same name as one of my girls..." I haven't "titled" my children as of yet.

Karen E. said...

LOL! I knew what you meant in the first comment. :-)

My daughter was reading over my shoulder and said, "Hey, Mom, why don't you give *us* titles?"

MaryM said...

Okay, I'm going to have to go ahead and actually read this one. I have read what I believe to be most of the picture books about the internment camps. This one I had only read the reviews on Amazon and our library site. Something about the nature of the dream/reality aspect of it made me avoid it - sounded too weird in the reviews - sort of "new agey" (for lack of a better word). But I do like Allen Say so should give it a try.

If you are interested in other picture books about the internment camps I have a post on 4 Real regarding this - I particularly like Bseball Saved Us and So Far from the Sea. But you are right - it is a hard subject and none of the books are "happy" books.

Karen E. said...

It *is* sort of weird, but I don't think I'd call it a new-agey sort of weird. It was definitely disturbing, but as we've both said, it's a difficult subject. I wouldn't do this book with a young child ... certainly no need to put the images in those little heads.

But my older girls and I could, I think, appreciate the book exactly because of the way it was told. Rather than presenting facts, it dealt with what must have been the feelings of those imprisoned: confusion, abandonment, fear, loneliness, and the nightmare feeling that "this can't be happening."

I do think it's an extraordinary book.