Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
AR Level 4.8, 2 points
Newbery Honor and National Book Award Winner
This story caught my eye when I was “window shopping” on Amazon. It was an “others who purchased” recommendation, and so I added it to my wishlist. Luckily, I was able to purchase it with my Scholastic points, and I am glad I did. It follows a girl named Ha who escapes Vietnam with her family (sans her father) towards the end of the war, and starts fresh in Alabama. Unfortunately, she is mistreated by her classmates since she doesn’t speak English and looks different from her peers. Her family also has trouble adjusting while mourning their missing father/husband. It gives an inside look at what it is like being a refugee from a war torn country.
What I liked about this book was that it was written in poetry. Like Brown Girl Dreaming, Inside Out & Back Again‘s chapters are poems, not paragraphs. This makes it not only a fast read, but full of figurative language. The author uses fewer words to make a bigger impact on the emotions and feelings of Ha. What’s more impactful is that it is based on the author’s experiences as a child.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it didn’t give as much detail about the war. I feel like the historical novels I read teach me more about a time period or experience than if I were to read a text book, but this didn’t give me quite as much about the war as I would have liked. I am sure that was intentional, given it is written at a fourth grade level, and this war was pretty brutal.
I would like to read more about Ha’s experience, but I did see that Lai wrote another book, called Listen, Slowly about a Vietnamese girl from California who learns more about her roots when traveling to Vietnam. I enjoy historical fiction and reading about the perspectives of others I wouldn’t normally know about.
Book 32 of 40 (year 2)