Lai, Thanhha Inside Out and Back Again, 262 p. Harper Collins Children's Books, 2011. $15.99 Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f') Violence: G, Mature Content: G. This is a 2012 Newbery Honor. 10-year old Ha is a refugee from Vietnam. She escaped with her mother and brothers on the eve of the fall of Saigon. Inside Out and Back Again follows her story from living in Saigon, to the evacuation boat, Guam and eventually America. She left behind what she loves most, and Ha must learn to assimilate into the strange American culture, so different from what she was used to in Vietnam. The language was "invented by snakes" the food is canned or processed; America is not what she or her brothers expected.
We see how cultures clash, the response of neighbors, the perception of Government help, the influence of religion. She learns how mean bullies can be and how wonderful friends are. Based on Thanhha Lai's real experience we get a balanced perspective of the prejudice and acceptance that is our American culture of the 60's. Told in poetry, this well written novel reads quickly. Highly recommended for upper Elementary and Middle School. There are a lot of Vietnamese phrases. EL/MS - ESSENTIAL. Lisa, Reading Teacher