Monday, February 4, 2013

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
262 pages
Elementary School+

Ha only knows her life in Saigon, trouble though it may be.  She loves her mother and brothers, misses her father, and anxiously waits for her mango tree to bear it's fruit.  While not perfect, the only thing Ha has to wish for on her birthday is for her father to come home from the army so Mother would be happy again.

But the faraway war slowly grows closer.  Her uncle urges her mother to leave while they can, but she keeps waiting until she hears from Ha's father.  When Saigon falls, they are forced to leave with thousands of other refugees.  Ha's family board a boat bound for America, the land of hope.

Follow Ha and her family as they cross an ocean, leaving behind everything they know for a strange place called Alabama.  They must learn to eat fried chicken, not fresh, and also learn how to fit in with people that don't understand her language.  After being mocked for everything from her name to her hair, Ha is ready to return to Saigon, but that might be one wish that can never come true.

Written in poetry, this story is moving, touching and speaks to the heart of many girls.  While not all girls have to cross an ocean and flee war, they can understand Ha's frustration in school.  Kids will identify with her struggles to fit in and find friends among strangers.

Another strong theme in this book is finding strength within your family.  Ha is constantly turning to her brothers and mother, both to help them and to find refuge from the strange world around her.  It is together that they make it, not as individuals.

This is a quick, easy read with lots of white space, due to the poetry format.  While it doesn't rhyme, it still flows very well.  Ha is a strong, growing character that many children, especially those in a new surrounding, will identify with.  Good book, will definitely recommend it a lot!

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