INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhaa Lai

I’ll confess: I was already smitten by the beautiful cover of this book when a friendly Harper Collins publicist handed me a copy at IRA a couple weeks ago. She promised me the inside was just as lovely as the cover…and she was right.

INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhaa Lai is a gorgeous novel-in-verse about a young girl who flees Vietnam as Saigon is falling and makes a new home with her mother and brothers in Alabama. Based on the author’s own experiences as a child immigrant, the poems are spare and lovely, and they manage to capture both the sense of wonder and the feeling of isolation of a newcomer in a world where everything seems different. As a teacher, one thing I found especially interesting and heartbreaking was Ha’s feeling of suddenly not being smart any more when she enrolled in her new school in America – such a common experience for gifted kids who encounter a language and culture barrier in a new home.

I really enjoyed this book and think readers in grades 4-7 will love it, too. It’d be great as a classroom read-aloud or for literature circles. Consider recommending it along with CRACKER: THE BEST DOG IN VIETNAM by Cynthia Kadohata and ALL THE BROKEN PIECES, an equally beautiful novel in verse by Ann Burg,as a way to explore Vietnam from different perspectives. It would also be fantastic paired with Katherine Applegate’s HOME OF THE BRAVE, which is also an immigrant story in verse, from the point of view of a boy from Africa who flees violence in his homeland and settles in Minnesota. Both books are short and poignant, and readers will come away with a much better understanding of what it feels like to land in a strange, new world and try to make that place home.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Find Kate Online