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Inside Out and Back Again



Last updated Friday, September 7, 2012

Author: Thanhha Lai
Date of Publication: 2011
ISBN: 0061962783
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2012

Synopsis: No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama. For all the ten years of her life, Hΐ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hΐ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hΐ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family. This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Note to readers:
•  Show the kids the ways the poems are arranged in the book. If you can, show the poems to the kids while you are reading aloud.
•  If you want to skip some of the poems, skip the poems about the papaya.

Discussion topics:
•  Have you ever heard of The Vietnam War?
•  Do you have any family members who have served in the military?
•  Have you ever had to move from a place you love? Have you ever moved to another country or town? Did you parents or grandparents ever move to another country or town?
•  Do you have a garden or a plant you take care of?
•  If you could only bring one special thing with you on your move, what would it be?
•  Do you have any special photos you would want to save?

Vocabulary:
•  Patrol- to move about an area to search, or inspect.
•  Ripening- the process of maturing, or aging.
•  Glutinous- sticky, resembling glue.
•  Salaries- payment made by an employer for work.
•  Blind Conviction- unquestioning, firm belief.
•  Chiding- to scold someone.
•  Ancestral- something that serves as a prototype, or forerunner.
•  Gaunt- thin, bony, or haggard.
•  Lotus- a plant believed in Greek legend to cause dreamy forgetfulness in those who ate it.
•  Imitation- a copy.
•  Seamstress- a woman whose occupation is sewing.
•  Communist- a member of the Communist party.
•  Flaunt- to wave around boldly.
•  Bypass- to avoid by following another route.
•  Rickety- something that is shaky and in danger of collapsing.
•  Monsoon- a seasonal wind in India and nearby lands that results in heavy rains.
•  Pact- an agreement.
•  Bougainvillea- shrubs that are native to South America, and are often found in warm regions.

Craft ideas:
•  Create a poetry book by folding a piece of paper. Write poems about your life experiences. Decorate this with pictures and/or drawings.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!