Welcome to KidLit Gems!
About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.
August’s theme: Survivor Stories
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN
Text © 2011, (Reprint Edition 2013) Thanhha Lai
Harper, an imprint of Harper-
New York Times Bestseller
- 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
in Miss Zinh’s class
we talk about
But when we keep talking about
how close the Communists
have gotten to Saigon
how much prices have gone up
since American soldiers left,
how many distant bombs
were heard the previous night,
Miss Xinh finally says no more.
From now on
will be for
No one has anything
~ INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN
This loosely autobiographical middle grade masterpiece ranks right up there with Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; Sold; A Long Walk to Water; and The One and Only Ivan. Like the aforementioned stories, Inside Out & Back Again offers readers an opportunity to live another’s real life experiences in different skin in different cultures and different parts of the world. And these stories aren’t your run of the mill grind–but encounters with tribulation, hope, and survival. And, like Sold and The One and Only Ivan, the experiences are delivered through intimate first person, present tense verse.
War leaves Thannha Lai’s ten-year-old protagonist, Hà, and her three older brothers fatherless. Through Hà, Thannha brings us into parts of her own world as a citizen of Saigon, then a boat refugee, and an immigrant to Guam, Florida, and Alabama. In her homeland Hà feels smart, secure, and fearless. In America Hà feels dumb, lonely, and afraid.
Her discoveries made me laugh out loud:
. . .
I look up
Jane: not listed
sees: to eyeball something
Spot: a stain
run: to move really fast
Meaning: ______ eyeballs stain move.
And clutch my chair:
. . . Everyone knows the ship
unable to hold
the piles of bodies
that keep crawling on
like raging ants
from a disrupted nest.
. . . What if
father is really gone?
From the sad look
on their faces
despite their brave guesses
They have begun to accept
what I said on a whim.
Capturing such a comprehensive, novel in so few words is an exceptional feat. Many people live harrowing lives that will go unnoticed. Cultures and parts of the world will go unshared. But thanks to the talent and dedication of author Thanhha Lai, we can experience a taste of her life–as one smart, young, female Vietnamese survivor, because she’s discovered the perfect formula for translation.
If you like this KidLit Gem, you’ll also love Thanhha’s newest New York Times sensation, Listen, Slowly.
Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again Reading, 2011 National Book Awards
Watch for Kristi’s pick next!
We want to hear from you!
What’s your favorite survivor story for children?