Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is my favorite novel in verse to date. I am amazed at how every free-verse poem has the ability to stand alone as a work of art, and yet shared together they link to tell a beautiful, heart-filled, stick-with-you kind of story.
This is the story of a young girl and her family who flee wore-torn Vietnam. They leave on a boat and eventually make their way to America where a family in Arkansas takes them in.
This book tackles issues like bullying, change, looking and sounding different and loss. Ten-year-old Ha enters an American school not knowing the language, looking and sounding different from everyone around her. Not only that, but she has lost her father, her home and her way of life.
As the reader you are allowed to step into Ha’s shoes and imagine what it might be like to be a refugee in this country. I love books that engage my emotions and make me care about the characters. This one did that in a way that I can still feel months after I read it. I cheered when people showed simple kindnesses to Ha and her family and cried when they didn’t.
Kids will love the small word count per page, but parents, rest assured, although the words may be sparse each one packs a punch and works to share Ha's story in a lovely and engaging way. I loved this book!
Readers 8 and up