Newbery Honor Book! A gorgeously written, hopeful middle grade novel in verse about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States, perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed. Jude never thought she'd be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven't quite prepared her for starting school in the US--and her new label of "Middle Eastern," an identity she's never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises--there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is. This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.
Original publication date
Author Jasmine Warga does a great job at balancing the innocence of a girl coming of age, while dealing with the realities of both the Syrian conflict and of what it means to be Muslim in America. She gives voice to Syrian refugee children, showing them proudly celebrating their culture while at the same time shedding light on all the hardships they have endured. The book includes links for students to find out more about the Syrian conflict, child refugees, and organizations like the White Helmets who are helping with recovery efforts. Other Words for Home is a great story to build empathy and understanding of newcomers, and hopefully reduce hate and fear.
Jude enjoys her life in Syria. She has a best friend, her older brother, and loving parents. Polically, life gets more dangerous, and Jude and her pregnant mother would be safer if they moved to the United States to live with Jude's uncle. The novel focuses on American life. At one point, Jude shrugs as a response to an adult, noting this American form of answering a question. So true! Most adults hate it, but I didn't really associate it as "American." This response is definitely not the better side of American life.
Jude adapts to American life. She wonders if her uncle misses Syria. Jude wants to spend time with her cousin, but Sarah is all American and offers little time to Jude. Her uncle's wife strives to make Jude and her mother feel welcome and truly enjoys having them in their home. She has Jude help her find recipes. The American life at school and home differ from Syrian life, so they have to adjust. In addition, Jude and her mother worry about Jude's brother, Issa, who has joined the fighting in Syria. They worry about his safety constantly. Jude's father also stays to take care of their business, so they are without close family, but they do have a good relationship with Jude's uncle. Discrimination presents its ugly head a few times as they are obviously not citizens of the United States. People make assumptions and say what shouldn't be said.
The novel presents a point of view that students--all people--need to see. People are people and unsafe conditions make people seek a safe place. It's a quick read, as it is a verse novel. Enjoy!
Jude tries to adjust to a new place, a new language, new culture. It's a struggle. She has an amazing support in her mom who is going through her own journey. She meets friends and tries to carve out her own path, find her voice and place in her new home.
Beautifully done. You'll be rooting for Jude from the first page, this is another middle grade book that I'd put on the list of required reading for US kiddos to learn how other lives are lived and how others eyes see and are seen.
The only negative was the end. If finished abruptly and left me with questions unanswered. However, overall, "Other Words For Home" was an inspirational read.
Another great thing about it is that it does feel like it is written to be accessible and relatable to so many ages, but in particular teenagers.
Content Warning: racism, mentions of war but no descriptions of physical violence
Jude grows up in Syria, happy most of the time, loving her family (mother, father, and older brother) and her best friend. But when war in Syria begins to spread to areas near her town, her brother goes towards the war, to fight against oppression, and her father sends Jude and her mother to America to live with her uncle (maternal) and his wife and daughter in Cincinnati, Ohio.
At first, Jude thinks they are visiting. But soon enough, she realizes that they have come to stay, and she needs to try to make a home in the United States. She is an upbeat and friendly girl, but naturally anxious about her new home, and whether she will be accepted. There are ups and downs of course, but in the end, mostly ups.