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Inspired by the author's childhood experience as a refugee—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.

Hà has only ever 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—toward America.

 

FYI: Thanhha wrote an op-ed in the New York Times from the point of view of her mother, who is very much like the mother in Inside Out & Back Again. 

 

Reviews

“Open this book, read it slowly to savor the delicious language. This is a book that asks the reader to be careful, to pay attention, to sigh at the end.” (Kathi Appelt, bestselling author of Newbery Honor Book The Underneath)


“Based in Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child–refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free–verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.”  (Booklist (starred review)


“The taut portrayal of Hà’s emotional life is especially poignant as she cycles from feeling smart in Vietnam to struggling in the States, and finally regains academic and social confidence. An incisive portrait of human resilience.”  Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“An enlightening, poignant and unexpectedly funny novel in verse. In her not-to-be-missed debut, 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.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

American and Vietnamese characters alike leap to life through the voice and eyes of a ten–year–old girl—a protagonist so strong, loving, and vivid I longed to hand her a wedge of freshly cut papaya.” (Mitali Perkins, author of Bamboo People)

“Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.” (The Horn Book)

“Ha’s voice is full of humor and hope.” (School Library Journal (starred review)

“In this free-verse narrative, Lai is sparing in her details, painting big pictures with few words and evoking abundant visuals.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

 

From the Back Cover

For all the ten years of her life, Ha 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. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope.  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.

 

Awards

  • National Book Award for Young People's Literature, 2011
  • Newbery Honor, 2012
  • Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor for Older Children, 2012
  • ALA Notable Children 's Book 2012, Middle;
  • Booklist 2011 Editors' Choice, Books for Youth, Fiction, Middle Reader
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books of 2011
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books 2011, Fiction
  • SLJ Best Books of 2011, Fiction
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Social Studies
  • Notable Children's Book in the English Language Arts, 2012
  • CCBC Choices, 2012
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2012, World History & Culture
     

Click for the Discussion Guide

 

Interviews

School Library Journal

NPR

Publishers Weekly

National Book Foundation

Orange Coast Magazine

Publishing Perspectives

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