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)
left in the bin.
Not enough to last
at the end of the month.
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?