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Inside Out & Back Again

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,519 Ratings  ·  3,424 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins
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Popular Answered Questions

Melia Yes, put it is written in a format that is kinda like a poem, but not exactly

And it's really good
Awsaf I think that the book is sad but I love it
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
5th out of 141 books — 718 voters
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha LaiA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWords in the Dust by Trent ReedyWith a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo
2012 Mock Newbery
2nd out of 23 books — 49 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 26, 2016 Natalie rated it liked it
“I’m practicing
to be seen.”

This book grabbed my attention with its beautiful cover, and I’m really glad that it did. Inside Out and Back Again tells the tale of Kim Hà and her journey during wartime in Vietnam.

Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward Alabama.

In America, the family has to start anew, where they discover the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of their very o
May 08, 2012 Sandra rated it it was amazing
{This review originally appeared on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves.}
I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

I understand
because Brother Khoi
nodded into my head
on the bike ride home
when I asked if kids
said the same things
at his school.

Thanhha Lai writes her verses in her award winning middle grade novel
Jun 21, 2011 babyhippoface rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all teachers
Read this straight through in one evening. It repeatedly put me in mind of an outstanding teacher at my school, whose family immigrated to the United States when she was about Ha's age. When we had a "Guess That Baby Picture" contest at school, she brought a school photo of herself around the age of 8, because that was all she had. There were no baby photos of her, no visual memories of her early years; they were too poor for photographs. All through this book I kept thinking, "I wonder if this ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Thinking about the most memorable of children's novels, one trait in all of them has to ring true in order for them to click with their readers. The books must contain some kind of "meaning". Even the frothiest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-type offering isn't going to remain long in the public's brain if there isn't at least a little "meaning" slipped in there. Now when I use the term "meaning" I'm being purposefully vague because it's not the kind of thing you can easily define. What is me ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Moe rated it it was ok
Shelves: 8th-grade
Let me tell you something. If I wasn't forced to write so many essay's about this stupid book, then I might have enjoyed it more. Maybe if we didn't have to analyze every sentence discussing every little detail until I accidentally tear one of the papers out because we had to flip back so many times, I probably might have enjoyed it more. This could have been a great book, and it's a shame that the new common core thinks we are "Learning" from writing useless paragraphs on how Ha's experience re ...more
Read this review and more on my blog

In a nutshell: A beautifully written story of immigration told through verse and the eyes of a young girl.

After the Fall of Saigon at the end of the war in Vietnam, Hà and her family are forced to flee home. Inside Out & Back Again tells their story, inspired by the author's experiences, of leaving their home, spending many wary days at sea unsure of their future, and finally immigrating to Alabama. Through Hà's eyes, the reader experiences the difficultie
Hey, reviewers? A lot of you are using the word "prose" where you mean "poetry", and I can't take it.

Also, there are actually lots and lots of kids' and YA books written in verse. Thanks.

Anyway, actual review: I find it difficult to review this, just like I found it difficult to review the last novel-in-verse about a Vietnamese refugee in the 1970s that I read, All the Broken Pieces. Like anything negative I might say is me judging the immigrant experience itself.

At first I didn't like this that
Liz BooksandStuff
May 03, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Putting side that I was not the biggest fan of the writing, because I do not think that simply separating sentences with a lot of space is poetry, the story and her experiences made up for it.
“Whoever invented English
should have learned
to spell.”

It is not often that I see a book about immigration to which I can relate. I come from an European background and nationally, I am Caribbean, so I have the whole, not a native English speaker, but still get white privilege thing. This book took me back
A short, but significant, story. This book is one of the reasons reading is so important. How else would we understand what it feels like to be a refugee? I firmly believe if more people read this or similar books, there would be fewer acts of xenophobia. I've never read a book written in free verse, but I absolutely loved it. I thought the fact that the author could get you to feel so much for the characters with so few words was amazing. Highly recommended.

"Her brows twist
so much
we hush."

Jan 09, 2016 Martha☀ rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
In this short, easy-to-read collection of poems, 10 year old Ha recounts one year of upheaval in her life as she is forced to leave Saigon upon the invasion of North Vietnam. She and her family escape on an over-crowded navy ship one day before the fall of Saigon and they take shelter at the US naval base on Guam. Eventually, her family of five arrive in the US as refugees and are taken in by a generous sponsor in Alabama where they finally settle, find jobs and go to school. The one-year transi ...more
Feb 21, 2016 Barbara rated it it was amazing
This moving novel in verse chronicles a year in the life of a young girl who must leave behind all that is familiar for a world where everything is strange and new. It is 1975, and as the war draws closer to her Saigon, Vietnam home, Ha reflects on the whereabouts of her missing father and the family's difficult straits. When they have the chance to flee, the family boards a boat, eventually ending up in Alabama. The book illustrates perfectly many of the struggles immigrants face as they deal w ...more
Steph C
Mar 23, 2015 Steph C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that this book was a really good book and I liked how it was her diary so you thought that she was writing in her diary while you where reading.I can relate to how the main character felt when everyone was being mean to her because she was the new kid, When I was the new kid, no one wanted to play with me until a couple days after the first day of school. I would like to read more books that this author has made, because she is a great author, and I love her style of writing.
Lexy S.C.
An amazing, touching story told through excellent poetry. I love this book to no end and have read it 5 times.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Feb 05, 2012 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
It’s the end of the long Vietnam War and Ha and her family live in Vietnam. It’s a beautiful place, despite the war going on all around them, with delicious food and lush gardens. Ha does brilliant work in school and she has a wonderful, close-knit family. It’s a small Eden in the midst of the terrible war.

Then the family cannot put things off any longer; the country they love is collapsing and they must leave Vietnam. The family escapes on a packed boat and is taken in by a cowboy in the Americ
Aug 26, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story, told in verse, about a young girl emigrating to America from Vietnam at the end of the war. Delicate and tender, I picked it up at the library to flip through while my kids chose books, and became fully engrossed. Read it in less than an hour. I hope that this is being used in schools, as an important way to talk about both poetry and the Vietnam War.
Feb 09, 2016 Kaia rated it really liked it
Excellent and beautiful and moving. 4.5 stars, but I will probably come back later and round up to 5.
Jan 23, 2014 Carrie rated it really liked it
It always used to bug me as a kid when I would read an award-winning children's book and then realize that it was award-winning because adults thought children SHOULD read it, and not because kids actually WANTED to. 'Inside Out & Back Again' is a classic example, in that it's about a young girl fleeing the Vietnam War with her family and ending up in Alabama. Also, it's written in verse, which I actually ended up liking. Here is an excerpt, about starting school in America:

"Misss SScott
Inside Out & Back Again is a wonderful story that you don't realize you're in love with until you finish it. When I turned the last page, I was grief-stricken, not because of the book, but because of the mere absence of pages left. I really felt for the characters, especially Ha. I loved reading about her experiences with leaving the land she loved and moving to an unknown place, because it's believable. Setting the book during the Vietnam War gave me a little bit of background as to how the ...more
Jubilation Lee
So in the further adventures of Monica Reads Books About The Immigrant Experience For Her Library’s Upcoming Project On The Topic, we have Inside Out And Back Again, which I was really excited to read both because I feel sort of like everyone but me has read it already, and also because I read a ridiculously adorable interview with Thanhha Lai that made me wish we were friends.

But… eh?

Inside Out And Back Again has won a shit-ton of major literary awards, so the fact that I wasn’t 100% blown awa
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

I was in the US Navy in 1975, headed toward the Philippines when our squadron personnel were off-loaded in Hawaii so that our carrier could rush to the coast of Vietnam to pick up refugees fleeing South Vietnam before it fell to Communist forces. So this story has particular personal meaning.

Like most Americans, I owe the life I live to the courage and hope of immigrant ancestors. The powerfulness of this story rings true. The US is a nation of immigrants
Barb Middleton
Ha has fled Vietnam and is in America with her mom and three brothers. English words have a ”Sssssssssss” sound that reminds her of snakes: MiSSS WasSShington, MiSSS SScott, hogwaSSSh. Some students make friends with her like Pem (Pam) and SSsi-Ti-Van (Steven) while others bully her by teasing her when she speaks; calling her pancake face, and pulling the hair on her arms. Ha is 10 and was born in Vietnam during the war. Her father disappeared on a mission for the Navy when she was one. When the ...more
Kim Purcell
Nov 22, 2011 Kim Purcell rated it really liked it
I saw Thanhha Lai read from her book at the National Book Awards Finalists Reading. Before she read, she said that she wrote it in a poetry format because she wanted to mirror the way that people think in Vietnamese. That was fascinating to me because I've worked with many people from different countries and I've found that the way we think is not only determined by our culture, but also by our language. Thought is composed of images and words, so it makes sense.

This insight would have been val
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This book, based on the author's own experiences, is a 2012 Newbery Honor Book as well as the 2011 National Book Award winner for YA fiction, and it certainly deserves both. The story, told in verse, begins in Vietnam during the war, just as Saigon is about to fall to the Communists. Ten-year-old Ha, her mother, and three brothers flee Vietnam in a crowded boat and make it to America, where they try to start a new life. The story describes their first year in Alabama, and particularly Ha's probl ...more
Readable in about an hour, this book of simple, straightforward poetry does an excellent job of painting a picture of the complicated process of immigrating to a new country. You can tell that this is a very personal story for Thanhha Lai, and I really loved that she spent time depicting Ha's life in Vietnam before she moves to America, so the juxtaposition of her two lives are very very clear.

I can't even imagine being smart and pretty and popular and happy and relaxed and at ease, and then ha
Sep 18, 2015 Elle rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was all written in a interesting, unique, and amazing type of poetry. It was all written from a girl's point of view, who had to flee Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. I recommend this book to people who enjoy poetry and historical fiction.
Linda Lipko
One of only two Newbery honor books for 2012, this incredible tale is based on real life experience of the author. Told from the perspective of ten year old Ha, this is a series of beautifully written, insightful poems, about a Vietnamese family who fled their country in 1975.

This is moving, poignant and compelling. Arriving in America after a long boat journey, the family is sponsored and sent to Alabama. As young Ha notes, at times life in war-torn Viet Nam was emotionally safer than southern
Abby Johnson
Jun 23, 2013 Abby Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Um... Why did I wait so long to pick up this book? Thanhha Lai puts readers right into the story with her vivid prose poems about wartime Vietnam and one family's flight and struggle to acclimate as American immigrants. The audiobook is nicely done, with narrator Doan Ly treasuring each carefully chosen word. Vietnamese pronunciations are said precisely and with emphasis to set them apart from the English text (as if they're italicized, which they probably are in the print book).

This was a list
Carl Porras
Mar 01, 2015 Carl Porras rated it really liked it
This book is overall a really good book if you're looking to read for about an hour or two. Inside Out and Back Again is a book about a girl named Ha and her journey with her family from Vietnam to America during the end of the Vietnam War. Ha goes through numerous life-changing ups and downs, including learning a new language an adapting to a new environment. This is book is very beautiful in the way it's told, because it's told in a series of poems usually talking about her day and what she fe ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Jaden rated it liked it
I think the writing is really cool, it is like a poem. I don't know what the family is doing. Why didn't they stay!!
They look like they are in a safe place now.She looks like she is going through a ruff time like I once did. It looks like those bullies are not gona pick on her again
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Thanhha Lai was born in Vietnam. At the end of the war, she fled with her family to Alabama. There, she learned English from fourth graders. She then spent the next decade correcting her grammar. Starting her writing life as journalist, she worked at The Orange County Register. She switched to fiction, leading to an MFA from New York University and short story publications in various journals and ...more
More about Thanhha Lai...

Share This Book

“Oh, my daughter,
at times you have to fight,
but preferably
not with your fists.”
“This year I hope
I truly learn
to fly-kick
not to kick anyone
so much as
to fly.”
More quotes…