September 10, 2021
Genre/Categories/Setting: Middle Grade+, Contemporary Fiction, Syria (and U.S.), Refugee, Coming of Age, Novel in Free Verse, Diverse Reads
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Because of instability in Syria, Jude and her mother leave her father and older brother to live with relatives in America (Cincinnati). Even though Jude has learned some English, she is unprepared for life in an American family, starting school in the U.S,. and her new label as “Middle Eastern.” Jude makes the best of some difficult situations and is suprised to make a new friend. Ultimately, she summons all her bravery and tries out for the school musical.
Middle Grade and Free Verse: It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a middle grade book on the blog. If you’ve followed my blog and reviews for a while, you know that I adore an occasional heartfelt Middle Grade read….especially one in free verse! I definitely fall hard for refugee stories. Free Verse makes the story feel more personal and accessible for all reading levels.
Main Character: I love Jude and her persistent and brave spirit. She asks lots of questions, likes to talk to people, and wants to be in the movies. She loves her brother Issa more than anything and above all, she wants to be seen and to be brave. I love that despite a huge life change she’s able to continue putting one foot in front of the other and showing up in school and in life, and that she is determined to follow her dream of acting. Jude is an excellent role model for other refugee students or “newcomers” who struggle with adjusting to a new culture.
Characters: There are many characters to love in Other Words For Home. I wasn’t sure about the aunt and uncle, but they each try their best and show Jude love and acceptance in their own ways. I love the classmate who befriends her in the most natural and authentic way! I respect the mother and the way she makes Jude feel safe to embrace both of her homes: the new and the old. I adore the relationship Jude has with her older brother (who remained in Syria). Of course, there were some mean girls in the story, too. However, it’s nice to see some growth in their character by story’s end.
Themes: Other words for Home includes many appropriate and wonderful themes for Middle Grade readers including empathy, kindness, resilience, determination, bravery, acceptance, fitting in, friendship, family, bullying, prejudice, and hope.
“Hoping, I’m starting to think, might be the bravest thing a person can do.”
“(Arabic Proverb) She makes you feel like a loaf of freshly baked bread. It is said about he nicest, kindest people. The type of people who help you rise.”
Recommended: I’m enthusiastically recommending this engaging and poignant story for all middle grade readers, for adults who are young at heart and appreciate good literature across all age groups, and for fans of stories about the immigrant experience. Its themes of compassion, acceptance, resilience, hope, and friendship will be valuable for any classroom or home library.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Meet the Author, Jasmine Warga
Is Other Words For Home on your TBR or have you read it?
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