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Inside Out and Back Again Hardcover – February 22, 2011


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 800L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (February 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061962783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061962783
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After her father has been missing in action for nine years during the Vietnam War, 10-year-old Hà flees with her mother and three older brothers. Traveling first by boat, the family reaches a tent city in Guam, moves on to Florida, and is finally connected with sponsors in Alabama, where Hà finds refuge but also cruel rejection, especially from mean classmates. Based on Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child-refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free-verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking—with grammar, customs, and dress (she wears a flannel nightgown to school, for example); and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast who spends lunchtime hiding in the bathroom. Eventually, Hà does get back at the sneering kids who bully her at school, and she finds help adjusting to her new life from a kind teacher who lost a son in Vietnam. The elemental details of Hà’s struggle dramatize a foreigner’s experience of alienation. And even as she begins to shape a new life, there is no easy comfort: her father is still gone. Grades 4-8. --Hazel Rochman

Review

“Open this book, read it slowly to savor the delicious language. This is a book that asks the reader to be careful, to pay attention, to sigh at the end.” (Kathi Appelt, bestselling author of Newbery Honor Book The Underneath)

“Based in Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child–refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free–verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.” (Booklist (starred review))

“The taut portrayal of Hà’s emotional life is especially poignant as she cycles from feeling smart in Vietnam to struggling in the States, and finally regains academic and social confidence. An incisive portrait of human resilience.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“An enlightening, poignant and unexpectedly funny novel in verse. In her not-to-be-missed debut, Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“American and Vietnamese characters alike leap to life through the voice and eyes of a ten–year–old girl—a protagonist so strong, loving, and vivid I longed to hand her a wedge of freshly cut papaya.” (Mitali Perkins, author of Bamboo People)

“Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.” (The Horn Book)

“Ha’s voice is full of humor and hope.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

“In this free-verse narrative, Lai is sparing in her details, painting big pictures with few words and evoking abundant visuals.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

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Customer Reviews

The book is unique in its beautiful prose style of writing.
Patricia Bryant
I promise you will not be able to read this book without feeling compassion for Ha and her family.
Heidi Grange
I really liked the story and how well it was portrayed, the author explained the story very well.
Isabelle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on May 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I love narrative poetry, and this book was no exception. At the height of the Vietnam War, 10 year-old Kim Ha is forced to leave Saigon with her mother and older brothers. Her father has been missing for several years, and the family continually hopes for his return. The decision to leave is heartwrenching, knowing that if they go, there will be no real way for their father to find them again, if indeed, he is still alive. Ha's mother gives her children the option of saving one thing... everything else must be destroyed, so as not to leave any evidence behind for the invading soldiers.

Once aboard the ship, the family suffers from extremely close quarters and lack of food. The boat captain's unlucky snap judgement on the best escape route means that their journey is drawn out much longer than they had anticipated, necessitating rationing. People grow ruthless and hoard what little food they have. The ship is rescued by Americans, and the families make their way to the States. Salvation? Hardly. Ha and her family end up in Alabama in the early-70's, with racial tensions at an all time high. After everything she's been through, Ha must endure appallingly racist bullies at school, as well as condescending teachers, who don't understand that just because she hasn't learned English perfectly yet, that doesn't mean that she isn't a bright and extremely observant girl. Ha is desperately homesick and finds heavily-processed American food disgusting compared to the fresh papayas and traditional Vietnamese fare that she is used to.

At this point, I really began to wish for some sort of break from the unrelenting sadness of the story - whether by comic relief, or a sympathetic character to lighten the tension.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on June 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN is a beautiful 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. 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.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Grange on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ha has spent all of her ten years in Saigon (Vietnam). She knows the markets, she does well in school, and she loves the papaya tree that she planted behind her family's house. But the war is creeping ever closer and her mother struggles to provide enough food. As it becomes apparent that Saigon will fall to the Communist North, Ha and her family make a painful choice to flee the country in hopes of finding refuge. When they land in America things seem to be working out, but as Ha struggles to adapt to a new language, a new religion, new climate, and new food, she wonders if it wouldn't have been better to stay in Vietnam. And what about the father she has never met who went missing nine years earlier?

Usually I am not a big fan of novels written in free verse. I like my poetry to be poetry and my stories to be prose. But I have had the privilege of reading this book and several others that have convinced me that done right, free verse can be particularly powerful. This story is based on the author's experiences as a child and maybe that's why they are so realistic. I promise you will not be able to read this book without feeling compassion for Ha and her family. You will cheer for their successes and feel discomfort at the poor treatment they receive from many. The book provides a thought-provoking look at a topic (immigration) that remains controversial still. Highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ALH on June 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Acceptance Doesn't Mean Giving Up
Although, the book Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, looks as if it is a book of poems, it has all the essential elements of a novel. The necessary elements for a novel are characters, a setting, a plot, and a theme and this novel definitely has them. Not only that, it has a traditional story arc, which always contains a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. Finally, Inside Out and Back Again has chapters, just like a novel would. Every novel needs characters and a setting. Some characters in this novel are Ha, her family, Pink Face, Steven, Pam, The Cowboy, Mrs. Washington, and the other kids in Ha's school. Ha is the protagonist, and Pink Face is the antagonist. This novel also has a setting; as a matter of fact it has several. A few of them are Saigon, Guam, Florida, and Alabama. Since the chapters identify where the next setting will be, they are especially important in this novel. As the story unfolds, Ha is moving to the U.S.A, because she was fleeing her home, which is Saigon, Vietnam in a small boat. Escaping in a tiny boat was dangerous, especially during war time. Further evidence of a plot in this novel may be found when Ha is challenged by the issues of life in a new school and the problems she has to learn how to face, like when the kids in her school chase her and then Pink Face pulls her hair, the first time he ever assaulted her with anything except his words.
Every novel has a theme, and this "Collection of Poems" has one, too. A theme is very important because that is pretty what Ha needs to learn. For example, when Ha has gotten dried papaya as a present, but she doesn't like it because it wasn't the same as the papaya in Saigon, so she just threw it away.
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