Monday, July 23, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Inside Out & Back Again

This week I am highlighting Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. This is a 2012 Newbery Medal and 2011 National Book Award winner.

Summary: (book description from Amazon) 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.

Background: I first saw this book in the Scholastic Book Club flyer my son brought home from school. I thought the cover was sweet. Months later I saw this on the shelf at the library and grabbed it... I grab A LOT of books from the library. When I opened it at home I was surprised to see it was written in verse. I started reading but put it down, other books calling my attention. About a month later I picked it up again and read it in one afternoon.

Side note... Does anyone else think it would be the coolest thing ever to have a book (YOUR book) included in the Scholastic Book Club flyers? I think I would be in heaven... fun stuff!

Why it is Marvelous: This is the first book written in free verse that I have read. I wasn't sure what to expect and at first I thought the writing was just a bunch of sentences written in tall skinny columns. But as I read more, and thought more about the format, I realized how much impact each word of each sentence needed to have. At only 14,925 words there is no room for extra words. And I did feel the impact of the words, and the emotional turmoil of young HÀ's life turned upside down (or inside out) as well as that of the other members of her family. The author does a great job of showing the reader what it feels like to be uprooted from everything you know and love and thrown into a strange and unfamiliar environment. There is a lot of sadness in this book but there is a lot of hope... in the new life HÀ's family will build and in the kindness of a handful of people who reach out and help them.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.


  1. The cover is beautiful. And it's exciting to see MG books written in verse. I think it's great to expose kids to more verse and poetry.

  2. The sparse but seemingly perfect wording of verse novels amazes me. And when you begin to look at word choice and word placement in lines, it blows my mind up, really. I adored this book.

  3. Wonderful review! I have seen this book and I think the cover is beautiful. I haven't read it- but I do like poetry, so reading a book in verse sounds like fun. HA's story sounds interesting and I have added it to my list. Also- I would love to see my book inside a Scholastic flyer. I would be beside myself with joy! :)

  4. Echoing Jess! Great review, and the cover is lovely. And,yes, what a thrill it would be to have my book selected for Scholastic book fairs!

  5. Thanks for your great review! I recently read this and was amazed by the impact so few words can have.

  6. I so, so agree with you on the economy of words in this one and how they impact you! I'd recommend trying Love That Dog by Sharon Creech next, or Out of the Dust by Karen Hess or...May B by Caroline Starr Rose, lol. Alrighty then, I'm done. Thanks for the review and reminder of how much I love reading novels in verse!

  7. I was at Barnes and Noble the other day with my kids and was trying to talk them into some books, to justify purchasing things from the YA section...They were not interested, but I think I still am!