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Inside Out and Back Again Hardcover – February 22, 2011
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“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)
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this in one of my children's lit classes and thought nothing of it when I was assigned it. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Katieasaur
Loved the beautiful poetry, but more than that I loved that it brings to life what so many refugees go through. A short read but definitely worthwhile.Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
This book was my 6th grade child's summer required reading! It's a wonderfully tragic story about a little girl who has to leave Vietnam and move to the US and how she is treated... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Brog Goethe
I enjoy all of Thanhha Lai's books; this is compelling read.
Anthony D. Woods
c/o Velvet Tears: Breaking the Silence
Most of today's students know little about the war in Vietnam or the fall of Saigon. This novel personalized the refugee's experience in both fleeing their home country and... Read morePublished 15 days ago by WIbuyer