INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
Lai, Thanhha. 2011. INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0061962791
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Ha is 10 years old and has known Saigon all her life. Until the Vietnam War, Ha lived happily with her family and friends. Now, Ha and her family have no choice but to leave Saigon and journey to America – where everything is different and nothing feels like home.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
In Lai’s debut novel in verse, she takes the reader on a journey through the eyes of a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl named Ha. Written in short-free verse poems, Lai gives us the perspective of a young girl going through a dramatic life-changing experience – along with all the ups and downs. The novel is dated throughout the story like a journal entry, which gives the reader an organized sequence of events and timeline to Ha’s journey. Lai’s novel is divided into four parts: Saigon, At Sea, Alabama, and From Now On. Each part vividly displays the emotions and experiences Ha goes through during each of these times. Some are happy like when they arrive in Alabama: “We’re giddy/when we/get off the plane. / Our cowboy, / who never takes off/ his tall, tall hat,/ delivers us/ to his huge house,/ where grass/ spreads out so green/ it looks painted.” Other times you feel the pain and suffering Ha goes through because of the war: “Wish father would come home/ so I can stop daydreaming/ that he will appear/ in my classroom/ in a white navy uniform/ and extend his hand toward me/ for all my classmates to see.” This story is told through beautiful prose that shows the heart and strength of little girl who gives hope and courage to all immigrants finding a new life away from home.
4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
Newbery Honor Book
National Book Award Winner
BOOKLIST starred review: Written in accessible, short free–verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.”
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL starred review: “Ha’s voice is full of humor and hope.”
THE HORN BOOK: “Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.”
* This book is great to expose children to novels in verse poetry books, and for lessons on immigration.
*Other children’s books about immigration:
Bunting, Eve. A PICNIC IN OCTOBER. Ill. Nancy Carpenter. ISBN: 9780152050658
Levinson, Riki. WHEN THE STARS COME OUT. Ill. Diane Goode. ISBN: 9780140555066
Maestro, Betsy. COMING TO AMERICA: THE STORY OF IMMIGRATION. Ill. Susannah Ryan. ISBN: 9780590441513
*Other poetry in verse novels:
Hemphill, Stephanie. WICKED GIRLS. ISBN: 0061853283
Murphy, Sally. PEARL VERSUS THE WORLD. Ill. Heather Potter. ISBN: 0763648213
Rose, Caroline Starr. MAY B. ISBN: 158246393X