IndyPL Kids Book Blog's Reviews > Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

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bookshelves: kid-life
Read in November, 2011

Ha is ten years old and lives in Saigon, Vietnam during the Vietnam war. For the first ten years of her life the war happened far away from where she lived but now danger has come too close and her family has decided to flee. It’s a hard decision because Ha’s Dad is missing and leaving means leaving him behind.

Ha’s family manages to get to a refugee camp in Florida. To leave, an American must volunteer to sponsor the family; to help the adults find work and begin sending the children to school.

A man comes to the camp wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Ha is sure he has a horse he will let her ride - he is an American…and aren’t all Americans cowboys?

This is the story of all of the things Ha believed about America before she arrived, compared to what reality turns out to be. Some things she learns are really funny and some things she learns are really sad. It is also a story of all of the new things Ha has to try; like chicken nuggests (she gags), American clothes (she mistakenly wears a nightgown to school) and English. (When Ha reads “See spot run” she doesn’t understand how a stain (a spot) can move really fast.)

And then there are the kids at school who just aren’t very nice to Ha at all. Some of the adults aren’t either, actually. But there are a few, especially Ha’s neighbor Mrs. Washington, who turn out to be just the American friends she is looking for.

This is a great book for getting to know exactly what it would be like to go somewhere totally new and have to learn to speak and read all over again as well as understand all of the unfamiliar things people do. Ha is one brave girl. Author: Thanhha Lai

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