Monday, April 11, 2016

INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN: Celebrating Poetry Month with Novels in Verse



Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (2013, HarperCollins, 262 pages, for ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from the publisher):  For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. 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—toward America.

Why I recommend it: The text is spare, with lots of white space on the page. Yet the imagery is gorgeous and colorful. I could taste the papaya, see the cramped boat on which they escape, feel Hà's anger and frustration at leaving home and starting over. Hà's voice is honest and childlike. Based loosely on the author's own childhood, the story is a deeply moving one. Like Hà, Thanhha Lai fled Vietnam with her family when she was ten, and moved to Alabama. Today she lives in Kansas.

The paperback edition includes suggested activities and an interview with the author.

Thanhha Lai's website

Favorite lines: (from a poem called Twisting Twisting on p. 37)
                       
                          Mother measures
                          rice grains
                          left in the bin.
                          Not enough to last
                          till payday
                          at the end of the month.

                          Her brows
                          twist like laundry
                          being wrung dry.

Bonus: Use this as a starting point for classroom lessons about the Vietnam War, and timely discussions about refugees and prejudice.

Have you read Inside Out & Back Again or any other novels in verse? What did you think of them?


20 comments:

  1. I loved this book! I'm currently reading Thanhha Lai's latest book, "Listen, Slowly."

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  2. I read Listen,Slowly since it was a finalist for the Cybils Award and enjoyed it very much. This one looks to be a good one too. I'll give it a try even though books in verse are not usually high on my list.

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    1. It's excellent, Greg. And I also enjoyed Listen, Slowly.

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  3. Great story idea and I love the cover. Sounds like a real winner.

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  4. I recently read Crossover and Locomotion, both written in poetic lines. This is a book I have been meaning to read. I have even checked it out of the library. LOL. I will try again!

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    1. I'm featuring The Crossover next week! Still need to read Locomotion.

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  5. This is one of the first novels in verse I read. I didn't think I would like it, but I really did. This verse style is so great at bringing out images and emotion.

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    1. I felt the same way about earlier verse novels, Andrea. And you're right about this format eliciting emotion and imagery.

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  6. I love this book too. One of many that has earned a permanent spot on my book shelf!

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  7. I've had this on my list for awhile. I really want to read this because we have a family friend who escaped Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This sounds beautiful and moving.

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    1. Oh, goodness. You'll no doubt find this very moving, Jenni.

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  8. Particularly topical now with the refugee crisis—we need more books that make experiences like that personal, not just stories on the news.

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  9. I loved it when I read it some years back. Interestingly, her second novel is not in verse!

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    1. I found that interesting too, Michael. She's so good at verse. But I also loved Listen, Slowly.

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  10. I read this one a couple years ago and really loved it. I am a big fan of books in verse and feel like the style helped tell the story. Great to read your review!
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks, Jess. I've really grown to love verse novels.

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YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation.