National Book Awards Young People’s Literature Winner

Click to go to HarperCollins book page


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Recommended for Grades 4 through 8

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize given to writers by writers and administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

This book has two things going for it before the content is even considered. Despite our best efforts, kids do still judge a book by its cover and I  love this one by Zdeno Basic and Manuel Sumberac. Secondly, the narrative poetry format has gone over very well with many readers in my library in books like Song of the Sparrow and novels by Sonja Sones and  Ellen Hopkins. Although my students prefer realistic fiction set in contemporary North America, reviews like the one quoted below have convinced me to order this book, read it and promote it in my library.

Inside Out and Back Again is an outstanding read.  There were no longeurs, no places where Hà’s narration felt affected, no stilted dialogue.  The prose/poetry felt natural, as if it were the means of expression for a confused, scared immigrant girl trying to make sense of the new culture around her and her place within it. ~ Vaguely Borgesian

The reviews speak of an authenticity that is explained in the author’s biography. Thanhha Lai has drawn from her own experience to write this novel.

On April 30, 1975, North Vietnam (the Communist side) won the war, and my family and I (living in Saigon, South Vietnam) scrambled onto a navy ship and ended up in Montgomery, Alabama.  Why?  Believe me, we didn’t know about Alabama to choose it.  But to enter the United States, refugees had to have a sponsor. The man who had the nerve to take on all of us (10 in all) lived in Alabama.

As is so often the case as selection by reviews gets pushed to the back of the priority list behind the moment-to-moment tasks of running the library, I find myself embarrassingly behind the 8-ball on this one. There is an abundance of positive reviews for this book which you will find easily with a search. Here are a few more:

Outside of a Dog
School Library Journal
Reader reviews on Goodreads

I also found a couple of book trailers that I’ve found can be very effective with promoting books to our oh-so visual students. I’ve embedded one below and the other can be found here.

Look inside the book at Amazon

I’m curious: Do you already have this book and if so, what do your students think of it? If not, will you buy this book based on these reviews? Why or why not?

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Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Poetry

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