Friday, October 11, 2013

Inside out and back again by Thanhha Lai

Poignant, moving, sad, honest, emotional - these are some of the words I would use to describe the verse novel Inside out and back again.

Over the course of a year this book relates, as a diary, the conflict in Vietnam of the 1960s, the journey by Ha's family to the US and her first months adjusting to this new and very foreign life.

Ha is a very smart girl.  In this extract she explains her shopping routine when her mother sends her to the market.

"Last September
she would give me
fifty dong
to buy one hundred grams of pork,
a bunch of water spinach,
five cubes of tofu.

But I told no one
I was buying
ninety-nine grams of pork,
seven-eights of a bunch of spinach,
four and three-quarter cubes of tofu.
Merchants frowned at
Mother's strange instructions.

The money saved
a pound of toasted coconut,
one sugary fried dough,
two crunchy mung bean biscuits."

As a contrast here is a description of Ha's packing.

"Into each pack;
one pair of pants,
one pair of shorts,
three pairs of underwear,
two shirts,
toothbrush and paste,
ten palms of rice grains,
three clumps of cooked rice,
one choice.

I choose my doll,
once lent to a neighbour
who left it outside,
where mice bit 
her left cheek
and right thumb.

I love her more 
for her scars."

This is a brilliant book for mature senior primary students and  a worthy Newbery honor recipient.  After reading this book you might also enjoy Onion Tears by Diana Kidd, Silk Umbrellas by Carolyn Marsden and Almost Forever by Maria Testa.

You can read an extract from this book here.  Here are some lesson plans and teaching resources.  You might like to watch a trailer.

I have put two covers here because we have the one with the half face here in Australia but I much prefer the US cover below.

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