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Title: Inside Out & Back Again
Author: Thanhha Lai (link)
Genre: Historical (Verse)
Pub Date: February 2011
Goodreads Synopsis: For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape, and the strength of her very own family.
First Line: Today is Tet, the first day of the lunar calendar.
Inside Out & Back Again is the second middle grade verse book I read this year (May B being numero uno), and man do I wish these stories were around when I was in elementary school! Thanhha Lai's poetry captures the sadness, sacrifice, frustration, and humor of Hà's story in a compact punch. Lai wrote that it took her fifteen years to get Hà's voice right. After exhaustively trying different methods, one day she jotted down the emotions that Hà would be feeling in short, clipped sentences. The quick phrases read like poetry, which she realized sounded more like Vietnamese, and the rest of the story unfolded quickly after that.
Why You'll Love Hà: Lai doesn't sugarcoat Hà's anger at being forced to leave behind the things she loves in her homeland, as well as what she honestly hates about Alabama. Hà is full of spunk and fight, and the way she takes on her struggles with English and the strange customs of her American school gives a fresh and fabulous perspective to the proverbial 'new kid.'
Inside Out And Back Again Themes: family, identity, cultural identity, war, immigration, survival, loss, change, religion, bullying, new schools, ESL, kindness, hope.
Want to find more marvelous middle grade books? Check out my past picks, as well as these MMGM bloggers who have more recommendations every Monday!