I enjoyed reading Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. It was easily readable and is a good way to introduce a child to the realities of the war in Syria and why so many Syrians have immigrated into the United States. The main character, Jude, is the first person narrator of this novel in free verse. Jude is a relatable character who anyone should be happy to call a friend.
Other Words For Home, by Jasmine Warga
This novel has six parts titled Changing, Arriving, Staying, Hoping, Growing and Living. Within each part are multiple very short chapters. Each chapter is very easy to read. The author wrote in free verse style throughout. Other Words For Home is intended for children in grades 3 through 7.
In the first part we meet Jude in her home country. She tells us about her best friend, her family, and a few things about her culture. A war rages in a nearby city and her parents want to get her out of the area. Her mother’s brother has already established a home near Cincinnati, Ohio so that is where she and her mother will go.
Jude’s older brother, Issa, has other plans. He wants to help fight for Syrian freedom. He decides to live on his own away from the family. The absence of Issa throughout the book is a particularly painful situation for Jude. Jude’s father stays in Syria to maintain the family’s retail business.
In America Jude will deal with her cousin’s unfriendliness, learning to speak English, and finding new friends. Naturally there will be prejudice to deal with. There’s a brief mention of Jude’s Islamic religion near the end of the book, but it isn’t a major theme.
My experience of reading Other Words For Home
I intended to read Other Words For Home in September 2020. Named a Newbery Honor Book in January 2020, it was high on my TBR list and I purchased a hardcover copy. Unfortunately my home burned in a forest fire on September 8, 2020. I managed to save this book and a few others I’d recently purchased, but living in a hotel room, experiencing the repetitive shocks of remembering things I’d lost in the fire, my ability to get my reading done was not good. I read a small part of the beginning of the novel, then quit.
That’s not a reflection on the readability of Other Words For Home! When I gave the book a second chance in February 2021 I delighted in the writing style and characters I met in the novel. This was a fun book to read. At first I tried for one part per day, but at the end I couldn’t stop reading. It was very enjoyable.
Would a child like it?
I think a child would very much like reading Other Words For Home, not only because it is an easy read but because the main character, Jude, is very sweet and likable. This is a great way for children to learn more about Syria, a country that has, before this, been very under represented in American children’s literature.
Is the book worth buying?
Oh yes… for me, it was very much worth buying. I collect books from the Newbery list, and this hardcover copy will remain in my library. I hope someday it will be passed on to a young person who will enjoy reading it.
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