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Inside Out & Back Again

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  33,249 ratings  ·  5,317 reviews
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only 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. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its st ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins
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Melia Yes, put it is written in a format that is kinda like a poem, but not exactly

And it's really good
Zoe's Human Because she has learned enough English to understand what the other children are saying to her, she knows how cruel they are being and feels pain from…moreBecause she has learned enough English to understand what the other children are saying to her, she knows how cruel they are being and feels pain from their insults. If she didn’t understand, she would feel less pain.(less)
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
146 books — 738 voters
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Novels in Verse
282 books — 669 voters

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Inside Out & Back Again, Thanhha Lai
Inside Out & Back Again is a verse novel by Thanhha Lai. The book was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and one of the two Newbery Honors. The novel was based on her first year in the United States, as a ten-year-old girl who spoke no English in 1975. Inside Out and Back Again is a story about a young girl named Kim Hà and her family being forced to move to the United States because the Vietnam War had reached their hom
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: diverse-reads
“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
Apr 18, 2012 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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

For those of you who know me, you might remember last year I discovered my youngest was failing to get his required nightly reading completed by opting to sit on the toilet and stare at the wall for 20 minutes every night rather than ever opening a flippin’ book. That little revelation led to us buddy reading Wonder. Unfortunately the boy child still appears to have been swapped with someone else’s baby and has yet to discover th
Mar 07, 2011 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
Jan 20, 2014 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
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-and-prose
I always love a good verse novel, and this book was just that.

A story about immigration and attempts to adapt to a new culture, Inside Out & Back Again was truly beautiful and heartwarming. It touched me emotionally on the struggles Hà had to deal with.
Hà is different from everyone around her. She is a Vietnamese girl among Americans. She is the weird black-haired girl in her school. She is the girl everyone makes fun of. Despite all this, Hà tries to stay strong and continues working and h
Feb 08, 2011 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
Kristy K
This book has been on my radar (and my shelves) for a while and I’m glad I finally read it. Told in verse from the POV of 10 year old Hà, we get a glimpse into life in Vietnam during the war, the journey of a refugee, and the struggles to adapt and be accepted in a new country. Truly a wonderful, heartfelt (and sometimes heartbreaking) book.
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
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must read!
It's a book I didn't know exist until a few days ago, and I'm truly glad it came into my life.

This book deeply touched me because my dad's own family immigrated from Vietnam to France and the Vietnamese culture is one I grew up hearing about but never truly experienced it.

This story follows Hà, her mother and three brothers, through their journey from a Vietnam at war to an American that doesn't necessarily welcome them with opened arms. It's a book about being stripped off your culture, your la
Liz Janet
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I don't recommend listening to this one. The narration is stiff and the Vietnamese words are spoken in italics (see Older's thoughts on italicizing a native language)

I didn't read this one with my eyes because I have an aversion to novels in verse. While they can be more nuanced than the typical novel and though you have to work harder to get to the depths due to a scarcity of words, they seem choppy to me, jarring, and a little flighty. I'm not a fan of poetry, either, so the whole paint a big
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you love lyrical books you will love this book. I couldn't stop reading it.
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."

Zoe's Human
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I don't care how old you are, I don't care if you like poetry or not, you should still read this. I'm 45, I'm not into poetry, and I loved this. In spare but elegant verse, the story of one year in the life of a girl is told. A year where Saigon falls and her family becomes refugees fleeing to safety in the United States. A year of coming to terms with a new culture and language. A year of struggle as a forced immigrant. This is amazing both as a piece of literature and as a learning experience.
Hasna M. 8B
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This historical fiction was special because the main character, Ha, experiences the same things as the author did when she was 10. It did get a little confusing because not everything that happened was recorded so it looked like she skipped parts. I still loved it!
Kate S.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book!!! It is about a young Vietnamese girl and her family. It is a great story told in her perspective. It shows the struggles of being brought into a new land (America). She has to face lots of problems whether that be losing her papaya tree or facing the schools bully. I would totally recommend this book!!!!
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
"No one would believe me
but at times/I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama."

This prize winning book is powerful and sad. A young girl named Kim Ha has to leave Vietnam during the war and ends up in the southern State of Alabama.

To begin with, Kim Ha's father has been MIA for 10 years, and after they leave for America they wonder how he can find them if he comes home. So already Kim Ha has sadness in her heart. There is so much more that she has to leave in Vietnam, mainly her p
Oct 15, 2011 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
Nov 25, 2015 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
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Một cuốn sách cảm động, chân thật và đẹp đẽ. Thanh Hà đã mang lại cho tôi rất nhiều cảm xúc và một góc nhìn khác về chiến tranh Việt Nam cũng như câu chuyện cũa những người xa xứ dưới góc nhìn của một cô bé 9 tuổi, tuyệt vời!
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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
What a moving story, written in verse, of a young girl and her family who came to America as refugees at the end of the Vietnam War. I learned so much about this time in history and through the story of this family saw the struggles many like them experienced in leaving their home, losing loved ones, dealing with ignorance, bullies and prejudice, the difficulty of learning English, and the huge clash of cultures and religion. I think Thanhha Lai did a beautiful job of helping me to see the hurt ...more
Ritika Gupta
A young girl's heart touching story set in Saigon during Vietnam war and the family's subsequent immigration to America. Story written in free-verse style.
Liza Fireman
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thanhha Lai writes about Ha, but mostly she writes about her own childhood. Being a child in Vietnam, and then needing to flee to a safe place. A strange place, where you look different, the customs are different, in addition to being poor, and not understand a single word. A new place, where the kids do not know what to make of this olive complexion, the black hair and the hair on the arms. She was coming from a place with papaya and nature to a new strange place, and it is not exactly fun most ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So good!!!!!!!! Pretty sad, though.
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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
“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…