Friday, March 02, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again (MG)

Inside Out & Back Again. Thanhha Lai. 2011. HarperCollins. 262 pages.

1975: Year of the Cat
Today is Tet,
the first day
of the lunar calendar.

Every Tet
we eat sugary lotus seeds
and glutinous rice cakes.
We wear all new clothes,
even underneath.

Mother warns 
how we act today
foretells the whole year.

Everyone must smile
no matter how we feel.

No one can sweep,
for why sweep away hope?
No one can splash water,
for why splash away joy?

Inside Out & Back Again is a verse novel with wow-factor. If you like compelling novels with great narrators, then it's definitely a must-read. The heroine of the novel is a young girl named Ha. Her family faces a difficult choice, but they make the only choice they feel they can make at the time, they choose to leave war-torn Saigon. They could apply to go anywhere, they could try to find a sponsor in a number of countries, but they choose America. The family ends up in Alabama. For better or worse as Ha herself can tell you. For this sensitive, well-spoken young girl is made to feel ridiculous, stupid, and worthless. She's bullied by many of her classmates. There are days Ha feels that even a war-torn country would be a better place to live than Alabama. But the novel isn't without hope. For Ha's life isn't hopeless, good things can and do happen to her and her family.

I definitely recommend this one!!! I loved it SO MUCH MORE than Dead End in Norvelt. (Have you read both books, which one did you like better?!) I thought the poems were so well-written. Here's one called "Two More Papayas"

Two More Papayas

I see them first.
Two green thumbs
that will grow into
orange-yellow delights
smelling of summer.

Middle sweet
between a mango and a pear.

Soft as a yam
gliding down
after three easy,
thrilling chews. (21)

And one called "First Rule." It is one of many, many, many poems about Ha's experiences learning English/English grammar.

First Rule

Brother Quang says
add an s to nouns
to mean more than one
even if there's 
already an s
sitting there.


All day
I practice
squeezing hisses
through my teeth.

Whoever invented 
must have loved
snakes. (118)

Read Inside Out & Back Again
  • If you are interested in Vietnam
  • If you are interested in historical novels
  • If you are interested in verse novels
  • If you are looking for heroines with heart
  • If you are looking to read this year's Newbery honor book
  • If you are looking for books about grieving and healing
  • If you are looking for family books
  • If you are looking for books with school settings and bullying

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Serena 2:05 PM  

sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for sharing this verse novel.

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