Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review- Inside Out & Back Again

Released on February 22nd, 2011
Ages 8 & up
Source- ARC from publisher for review
4.5 stars- It's a wonderful read

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

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. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next (quoted from Goodreads).

Written in prose, Inside Out and Back Again is a moving story written using the authors own personal experience of moving from Vietnam to the US just after the war. If this beautiful cover doesn't capture your attention, than the story will.

Ten year old Ha is a refreshing, captivating voice. She invites readers to get to know her more and understand what it's like to be in her shoes. Living in war torn Vietnam she's grown up with her mother, and three older brother. Her father has been missing in action since she was one, and in order to protect her family, Ha's mother must make the terrifying leap of faith to move her family to a country they know little about. The US is much different that living in Vietnam.

Ha not only has to learn to adapt to a new way of life, and a new language, she learns first hand what segregation is and has to deal with bullying. Thanhha's writing paints a vivid picture of Ha's world, from her life in Vietnam, escaping on the ship and then immigrating to the US during the 70's. It wasn't hard to visualize Ha's struggles, to feel her sorrow or to laugh along side her. I was surprised that Thanhha is able to bring all this to life using very little words.

I enjoyed getting to know Ha and her family. The transition coming to the US isn't just hard for her, but it's hard for her whole family, and Ha and her family made me realize how much I take for granted. Along with Ha, I really liked getting to know their neighbor, Miss Washington. She not only tutors Ha in the evenings teaching her english, but she helps Ha accept her new life and she does so with love and compassion. I really enjoyed watching the bond between the two characters form.

Ha's story caused me to really think, and it's one that's left an impression on me. Thanihha has done a wonderful job at introducing middle graders to a historical read. This is a book I would definitely encourage young readers to pick up. Ha's story offers a lot to be discussed in both class room settings and in book club groups.


  1. I like the cover - and the story sounds very interesting and educational.

  2. You're right, the cover is lovely. I will definitely be picking this book up this summer at my local library.

    You also might want to look at "Home of the Brave" by Katherine Applegate. It's about a boy escaping a war torn African country to settle in American where he is eventually reunited with previously lost family. This was a wonderful book, written in prose, and a fast read. My husband said it was very much like the experiences of his refugee students. Another is "Drita, My Homegirl" by Jenny Lombard - it's a good one for 3rd grade and up.

  3. lulilut- It's a wonderful story.

    Jennifer- I think you'll enjoy the story. Thank you for the recommendations! I'm definitely going to check out Home of the Brave and Drita, My Homegirl. They sound like fascinating stories.


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~