Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

82%

42 Critic Reviews

A series of poems about English grammar offer humor and a lens into the difficulties of adjusting to a new language and customs...An incisive portrait of human resilience.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author's childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child's-eye view of family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. 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 . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it "enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny." An author's note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà's story.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

 

About Thanhha Lai

See more books from this Author
Thanhha Lai was born in Vietnam and moved to Alabama at the end of the war. She lives in New York City with her family.
 
Published February 22, 2011 by HarperCollins. 277 pages
Genres: Travel, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Inside Out and Back Again
All: 42 | Positive: 42 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jan 08 2011

...Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jan 31 2011

A series of poems about English grammar offer humor and a lens into the difficulties of adjusting to a new language and customs...An incisive portrait of human resilience.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Susan Carpenter on Dec 11 2011

Assimilation isn't an easy experience, but it's rare that readers are given an opportunity to experience its specifics, and rarer still to hear it from a Vietnamese perspective.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again | See more reviews from LA Times

Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Augusta Scattergood on Jul 06 2011

...it’s the classic immigration tale, powerfully and beautifully shared by an authentic narrator who lived the story.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Common Sense Media

Good
on Feb 22 2011

Though it is never preachy or instructional, the short verse poems give much information about life in Vietnam, including the foods, clothing, traditions, the encroaching war, some politics, family structure, and more.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Hazel Rochman on Jan 01 2011

The elemental details of Hà’s struggle dramatize a foreigner’s experience of alienation. And even as she begins to shape a new life, there is no easy comfort...

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

http://childrensbooks.about.com

Above average
Reviewed by Melissa Fox on Sep 23 2013

The poetry in this book is gorgeous in its simplicity. It does pack an emotional punch, tackling an issue – that of refugees displaced by war – that isn’t often addressed in children’s literature, which is refreshing.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Asian Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Niranjana Iyer on Feb 23 2012

There’s Hà, biting into a cookie “dotted with chocolate raindrops”. Tales of immigration and assimilation maybe commonplace; Lai’s writing is anything but.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

KCLS

Above average
Reviewed by Deb @ Woodmont on Mar 28 2011

The author's note at the end reveals that much of the book is based on the author's own experience fleeing Vietnam at the age of 10. A historical note would also be useful to give some context to young readers.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Cindy Dobre on Feb 18 2011

This is a gem of a book that will find a ready audience among “the new kids on the block” everywhere, but it will be embraced by an even wider audience that will gain an understanding of what some of their classmates have been through.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Lit Stack

Good
Reviewed by Angie Kay Dilmore on Dec 29 2011

While written as fiction, the story is largely autobiographical. Author Lai knows firsthand the trials endured by Hà and her family – prejudice, poverty, language and cultural barriers. She remembers the loss of everything familiar, such as friends, traditional food and native customs, the colorful markets, and Hà’s beloved backyard papaya tree.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Reading for Sanity

Good
Reviewed by Kari on Jan 28 2013

While I think it shares a profound experience in a simple yet beautiful way, anyone can benefit from understanding how a life can be so altered by war. I love the perspective it gives.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

http://goodbooksandgoodwine.com

Good
Reviewed by April on Feb 16 2012

Inside Out And Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a solid two hour investment that will allow the reader the chance to see the world and the Vietnam War through another person’s eyes.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Bermuda Onion's Weblog

Good
on Jan 21 2012

I’m a big fan of immigrant stories and I think this one is special since it’s told from the point of view of a young child. Can you imagine going to school when you don’t know the language or customs? You can’t come up with the answer because you don’t even understand the question.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Helen's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Helen on Feb 05 2012

This is a universal story of struggle, acceptance, and culture that will surely delight readers of all ages.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

No Charge Bookbunch

Good
Reviewed by Rosemary Wolfe on Nov 03 2011

Lai’s poetry gives a sharp, focused image to their struggle, as told by an angry fourth-grader, and clearly offers insight into the daily challenges of starting over.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

http://blogs.slj.com

Above average
Reviewed by Elizabeth Burns on Nov 01 2011

Inside Out & Back Again is based on the author’s own experiences as a ten year old. Fiction can be the better avenue to tell this type of story; no worrying about specific dates, times, or places; creating a narrative that is true rather than linear.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Book Nut

Above average
on Aug 01 2011

This novel in verse tells the story of Ha and her family over the course of a year; from their life in Vietnam, through their flight and all that entails, and finally their adjustment to life in Alabama. It's simplicity is deceptive...

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

http://blogs.slj.com

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Bird on Mar 04 2011

All told, Inside Out and Back Again has the brevity of a verse novel packed with a punch many times its size. It’s one of the lovelier books I’ve read in a long time, and can make you think about and question the entire immigrant novel genre, so long a permanent part of the American children’s literary canon.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Beth Kephart's Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Beth Kephart on Apr 30 2012

Everything about this book feels right. The natural quality of the child's voice. The intelligent use of symbols. The piercing grace of the story itself. The deep, authentic sadness. Simple words. Big ideas. A whole, long tug on the heart. Inside Out & Back Again is a lasting achievement. It elevates the genre.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Books 4 Your Kids

Good
Reviewed by Tanya on Apr 26 2013

Simple words and simple imagery, but somehow, it was in this moment at the end of the novel that I felt like I almost understood what it might feel like to leave your home, your way of life...

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

LibrisNotes

Good
on Apr 12 2012

Inside Out & Back Again provides young readers the opportunity to explore the situation immigrants face when coming to a new country. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the Vietnam War, an almost forgotten conflict that consumed America and Asia during the 1960's and early 1970's.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Heaful of Books

Good
Reviewed by Anne Bennett on Dec 17 2011

The library categorizes this as a "Junior" book, but I would say that it works for anyone age 9 and up, all the way to adults. I am glad that I read this book, as it opened my eyes and helped me see life from a different perspective.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Slate Breakers

Good
Reviewed by Sarah on Aug 01 2011

Part of the reason verse works so well for this particular story is that the structure of the poems gets to mirror this shift of language and understanding throughout the book, while keeping everything in English so that we can understand it.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Dog Ear

Good
Reviewed by Nicki on Mar 25 2011

Hà is a vivacious, spirited girl who carries this heavy story with humor and veracity, bringing to life the beauty of her country even in wartime. Spats with her brothers, anger at being treated unjustly by schoolmates in Alabama and a desire for sweet things will have readers of all backgrounds relating to and cheering for her.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Kevin's Meandering Mind

Good
Reviewed by Kevin on Apr 30 2012

Inside Out & Back Again...is a terrific book, and reminds us of how stories can transform lives. A short note at the end by Lai informs us that Lai’s journey is similar to Ha’s, and her own experiences in the aftermath of the Vietnam War here in America are what inspired her to write the story.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Book News and Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Tracy on Dec 13 2011

This is a powerful novel about the immigrant experience, and one to savor slowly. Despite what many will consider weighty subject matter, this is a fairly light read with a good deal of humor.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

GreenBeanTeenQueen

Good
on May 03 2011

Inside Out and Back Again is getting some early Newbery buzz and deservedly so-it's a touching and memorable debut and well done in verse format.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Hope is the Word

Good
Reviewed by Amy on Apr 11 2012

“I don’t usually like novels written in verse form. . . “ I need to change that; I must like them better than I think I do. In this case, though, I think it works particularly well.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Waking Brain Cells

Excellent
on May 31 2011

This a book that is so beautifully written. It captures the journey both physically and emotionally of refugees to our country. It is breathtaking and strong.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Mundie Kids Children's Book Reviews

Good
on May 03 2012

When you pick up this fun read you'll find out just the kind of mess they're make. Believe me, it's a big one! The rhyming, and colorful illustrations make for this book a delightfully enticing read for fans of all ages.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Reader Girlz

Good
Reviewed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann on Dec 05 2011

...Lai gives all her characters—not only Ha but also her three brothers and her mother—distinct desires and personalities that make them memorable and compelling.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

The Brain Lair

Good
Reviewed by Kathy on Jun 02 2011

Historical fiction works well as a verse novel. The spareness of the prose makes the images seem more stark and heartfelt. The story takes place over one year, opening and closing with Tet, the lunar new year. Ha's wishes on both these days help to solidify the changes we see happening to her over the course of the novel.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Bibliophilia

Good
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O'Brien on May 07 2012

A luscious coming-of-age story that is both well-written and emotionally affecting; a bittersweet glimpse at an ugly chapter of history.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Knight Reader Blog

Good
on Jun 24 2012

This book is an excellent selection for any elementary, middle, or high school libraries. Children, teens, and adults alike will find this book, a Newbery Honor Book and National Book Award winner, extremely moving, and I hope that it will make them think about their own stories...

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Born Bookish

Good
on Mar 11 2012

This was a quick read that took just a little over an hour from start to finish. For such a short book it sure is full of love, life, and loss. I highly recommend you pick it up! I’ll be on the lookout for anything more written by Thanhha in the future.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Fourth Musketeer

Good
Reviewed by Fourth Musketeer on May 26 2011

Although she comes from a background foreign to most of us, readers will nonetheless identify with Hà's spunky character, her squabbles with her brothers, and her difficulties fitting into her new life. This novel is already getting some early Newbery buzz, and it's definitely one to put on your to-read list.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

The Bookshelf Detective

Good
Reviewed by Kim Tomsic on May 03 2012

How can you resist a book when a main character states: “…at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.” This from a character who is smart, feisty, and authentic equals a book with angst, humor, and drama.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Next Best Book

Good
Reviewed by Mindi Rench on Jan 09 2012

I'm late coming on the bandwagon for this beautiful novel in verse. The story of Ha and her family as they begin a new life in America is at times heartbreaking and heart warming. I loved that Lai gave me a look at what life was like in Vietnam for families as contrasted by their lives here in America as refugees.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Reading Everywhere

Good
Reviewed by Allison on Dec 07 2011

Headstrong Hà is a relatable protagonist and a keen observer of the world around her. Young readers will champion her for getting angry at the frustrations and limitations she faces as a refugee trying to learn a new language and culture.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Skipping Along

Excellent
Reviewed by Kathryn Mueller on Jun 28 2011

Considering her exquisite use of free verse poetry along with the quality of the story and the characters that make it, I'd be very much surprised if Thanhha Lai did not receive at least one award for this book.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

The Reading Zone

Good
on May 31 2011

Inside Out and Back Again is a stunning, lyrical debut from author Thanhha Lai. While it seems like it is being marketed to MG readers, I want to stress that this is a book ripe for high school classrooms, too.

Read Full Review of Inside Out and Back Again

Reader Rating for Inside Out and Back Again
88%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 707 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×