Saturday, January 21, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again

Written in breathtaking verse, this book tells the story of H a, a ten year old girl, who escapes Vietnam with her family shortly before the fall of Saigon.  Her father is missing, and her mother must lead the family to safety.  This means leaving their beloved Vietnam, escaping by boat with hundreds of other refugees, and eventually being sponsored by a man living in Alabama.  Inside Out & Back Again is a year in the life of Ha and her family.

I was skeptical at first.  I wasn't sure if I would feel a connection to the characters.  Would this story, written entirely in verse, allow me to feel for Ha and her family?  My doubts were soon displaced by my strong connection to Ha, her three brothers, and her strong and clever mother.  Each verse "entry" is done in chronological order, telling Ha's heartbreaking, yet sometimes funny story, of worrying about her father, missing her papaya tree in Vietnam, and her difficulties learning the English language.

Starting in Tet of 1975 and ending with Tet in 1976, author Thanhha Lai beautifully captures the challenged of immigrant families, the cultural barriers that divide, and the small victories that bring about real change.  The book is fiction, but it is based on the real experiences of Thanhha Lai.  The personal connection the author feels towards her main character is evident in her poetic storytelling.

Inside Out & Back Again recently won the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, yet it is marketed to readers 8-12.  I think the book spans Middle Grades and Young Adult and is appropriate for for readers young and old.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

9 comments:

aquafortis said...

Ali, thanks for stopping by Finding Wonderland! I'm not doing the comment challenge, but I'm trying to find more time to visit blogs this month. :)

Anyway, this one sounds good! I don't normally gravitate toward novels in verse, but we like to review as many multicultural books as we can on FW, so I'll keep an eye out for it. Great review!

Alysa said...

My, what a cute blog you have! And thanks for putting this book on my radar.

A comment challenge? I'm intrigued! Thanks for commenting on my blog!

Katie DeKoster said...

Inside Out realy is so good!! I was even more impressed when I learned it was based on the author's own experiences. I wish more teachers used books like this one to teach about history.

Ali B said...

I agree, Katie. Teaching history using historical fiction brings the past to life.

Playing by the book said...

Sounds like a fascinating read - an especially, perhaps as an audiobook. I have to admit I don't naturally go for stories written in verse (other than in picture books) as I think they are so hard to do well, but you've got me adding this to my library reservation list.

Jude said...

Hi Ali,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your sister's right: you should read The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963. While you're at it, read Bud, Not Buddy. You will not be disappointed!

Ali B said...

I own a copy of Bud, Not Buddy, but haven't read it yet. I have so many books I want to read. I'm not complaining - just saying...

Magdalena Ball said...

Everytime I've read a novel in verse I've always been amazed at how readable and engaging it is and this book sounds like it isn't an exception. I'll have to look for it.

Corinne Robson - PaperTigers said...

Many thanks for your comment on our blog www.papertigers.org

Inside Out and Back Again was one of my favorites from 2011. Two other novels in verse published in 2011 that you may enjoy too are Holly Thompson's Orchards and Cathy Oslere's Karma.