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Kid Konnection: Inside Out and Back Again

January 21, 2012

In 1975, ten-year old Hà lived in Saigon with her family.  Her father, an officer in the Vietnamese Navy, was captured on a mission nine years before.  Her mother does her best to take care of Hà and her three brothers.  Things become more and more difficult and when it appears the fall of Saigon is imminent, Hà’s family flee their native country and settle in Alabama.

Adjusting to life in a new country with a new language and new customs is never easy, but for a confused ten year old, it’s down-right difficult.  At one point Hà says:

No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama.

Written in verse, Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, is Hà’s story, and what a story it is!  Recommended for middle school age on up, this book deals with the Vietnam War, immigration, and family.  It is tragic, touching, and triumphant.  I found myself rooting for young Hà.

I’m a big fan of immigrant stories and I think this one is special since it’s told from the point of view of a young child.  Can you imagine going to school when you don’t know the language or customs?  You can’t come up with the answer because you don’t even understand the question.

Based on the author’s own life, Inside Out and Back Again captures the emotions, frustrations and hardships young immigrants must deal with.  Hopefully reading Hà’s story will give young people a better understanding of and more empathy toward those who are different from them.

This book won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for good reason, but you don’t have to be young to enjoy it.  I loved Inside Out and Back Again and hope it finds its way into many classrooms because it will encourage great discussions.

For more children’s books reviews, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week,  leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2012 7:13 am

    cannot WAIT to read this one!

  2. January 21, 2012 8:00 am

    Ha! I just Margot’s review of this one and will be reading it next week because of her words…now you’ve confirmed that this is a must read! 😀

  3. January 21, 2012 8:26 am

    Sounds like a wonderful book!

  4. January 21, 2012 8:43 am

    I can’t wait to read this one either!

  5. January 21, 2012 9:17 am

    This sounds excellent. You bring so many great pieces of children’s literature to light in your Saturday posts.

  6. January 21, 2012 9:39 am

    I always feel that it’s a great author who captures young readers in books, they’re shorter and must get the story across without drawing out the story for too many pages. Bravo to this author. I’ll be watching for this book, my young niece and I share books.

  7. January 21, 2012 10:06 am

    This sounds fabulous. I do enjoy verse novels from time to time.

  8. January 21, 2012 11:07 am

    This sounds wonderful 🙂

  9. January 21, 2012 11:26 am

    I’m not always good at or appreciative of novels in verse but this is one that I’m really interested in reading!

  10. January 21, 2012 12:56 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    I don’t tend to read verse very often, however your description of this book had me intrigued.

    I managed to track it down on Amazon,where there is access to several of the pages available to read on-line.

    The simplicity of the words and verse are amazing, in the feelings and meaning which they convey to the reader.

    The book has attracted some fantastic reviews and is a definite must read for me.

    Thanks for the recommendation and have a great weekend

  11. January 21, 2012 3:11 pm

    This does sound really good! Excellent review, as usual, Kathy!

  12. January 21, 2012 3:17 pm

    It sounds wondrous.

  13. January 21, 2012 5:35 pm

    This book sounds special. I am taking note of it because I think it would be great to read with my daughter. It would be different from what we usually read.

  14. January 21, 2012 5:50 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of this one. I could almost swear I have it on my shelves somewhere.

  15. January 21, 2012 6:57 pm

    I can’t wait to read this. It looks SO good. I keep hearing awesome things about it.

  16. January 21, 2012 6:59 pm

    BTW, I’m a sucker for immigrant stories too.

  17. January 21, 2012 7:11 pm

    I absolutely have to read this. I must.

  18. January 21, 2012 7:38 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this one too. Didn’t you just laugh and cry for Ha? Such a little sweetheart.

  19. January 21, 2012 7:40 pm

    oh i can’t wait to read this one! wonderful review!

  20. January 21, 2012 9:01 pm

    You’ve got my attention with this review, Kathy. Sounds like a wonderful book that should be in classrooms.

    I’ve seen more and more books for middle grade and young adults written in verse. It somehow makes difficult subjects/history easy to take in.

  21. January 22, 2012 1:11 am

    Love the sound of this book! I’m going to definitely make it a point to read this one, even though verse scares me.

  22. January 22, 2012 6:53 am

    I agree with others that have said that this one sounds wonderful. I need to get myself started with some books in verse, and this one seems like it might be a good choice for me. So glad that you liked it!

  23. January 22, 2012 3:16 pm

    I think this sounds like a great book to help kids view the world through the eyes of others.

  24. January 22, 2012 3:31 pm

    I really want to read this one. It sounds like something I’ll love.

  25. January 22, 2012 3:40 pm

    I’ve been meaning to read this one. It looks amazing.

  26. January 22, 2012 9:50 pm

    An immigrant story told in verse? Based on the author’s life? It sounds amazing and completely different from what I usually read. I must add it to my shelves!

  27. January 23, 2012 10:49 am

    Wow!! I think I would love this book so much! And can imagine Ha’s feelings mentioned in your quote. It’s sooo overwhelming to move countries/cultures! Even as an adult it put my world upside down, let alone for a kid coming from a country in wartime…
    Thanks for sharing! I absolutely want to read this!

  28. January 23, 2012 2:54 pm

    I’m certainly enjoying seeing this around the blogs, it sounds really good. I’m not a great fan of verse novels, but would be keen to give this a look when it gets published in Australia.

  29. January 23, 2012 6:27 pm

    This one is getting pinned by me!

  30. January 24, 2012 8:42 pm

    You are really trying to get us to read a book in verse aren’t you? Looks like another winner.

  31. January 25, 2012 2:22 pm

    This sounds fantastic. I’ll make sure Serena adds your review to the Vietnam page on War Through the Generations.

  32. January 28, 2012 11:57 am

    Great shares – again!

  33. January 29, 2012 9:37 pm

    Thanks so much for featuring this one – it is a perfect immigrant themed children’s book and I have been on the lookout for those as part of my Immigrant Stories Challenge. I visited Vietnam a few years ago and was moved by how much tumultuous history its people have lived through.

  34. February 6, 2012 2:35 pm

    Wow..sounds like a touching story and that it works well in the form and from the point of view. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for a copy of this one.

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