Multicultural/Global Literature – Inside Out and Back Again

Part One: Bibliographic Information

Lai, T. (2011) Inside out and back again. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade: 4-8

Part Two: Response to the Book

Predictions – Before I read this book I looked through some small summaries online, which sparked intrigue.  I knew that this book was about a young girl who leaves her war-stricken country of Vietnam, and travels to the United States with her brothers, but what I did not expect was how powerful this book was to me.

Craft – The book is written in free-verse poems, rather than a typical novel.  Making this book very easy to read, because once you’re hooked you start flipping through the pages.

Personal Connections – For me, this book was hard to relate to on the main character’s scale, because the trials and tribulations her family has faced during such a difficult time in history.  Although I have never been an immigrant, I did have extreme sympathy for Ha because I could see myself as a future educator having to deal with situations where children are mistreated or bullied for being “different”.  There were even parts of the story that nearly made me cry because of the pain she felt when others were teasing her for not knowing English (although she was bound and determined to learn), or for her clothes, or for her hair.

Issues Raised – As I mentioned above, the thought of having to comfort a child who is being teased by others is heartbreaking.  Although as a future teacher I can try to help those children and try to recognize bullying as quickly as possible, I feel that sometimes the comfort an adult brings to the situation only makes it a little better, because children (like some adults) crave the acceptance from their peers. Being an advocate for people who come to your country and who are from other countries is extremely important to note in this book – giving them opportunities to thrive is what is most important.

Prompts – Some prompts I may ask children when reading this book is to think of a time they felt sympathy for someone, or when they helped someone who was “different” from them, and how they thought that made the other person feel. Additionally, I might prompt my students to think about a time they met someone who was from another country, and what challenges they may face (like Ha).

Part Three: Critique

This book has been by far one of the best children’s books I have ever read.  The plot is so relatable to many children and their families are immigrants.  From the struggles of learning a new language, to learning the cultural “norms”, transitioning from living in a country that is very different from where you were born can be difficult.  There is so much meaning enveloped in this book that describes how Ha (the main character) feels when she is in Saigon compared to how she feels now that she is living in Alabama.  For instance, the main character has a positive outlook at school (she is confident and outgoing), but when she moves to Alabama, she finds herself questioning everything she does.  The title, to me, means that she is going “full circle” from being timid and shy at her new school in Alabama, to regaining the strength and confidence she once had while in Saigon.

Part Four: Lesson Sketch

Grade – 7

Objective – After reading Inside Out and Back Again students will write a free-verse poem describing a time they felt different from another person using clear/coherent grammar and spelling.

Discussion Questions – Based on the little that we know about when this story took place, why do you think Ha had such a difficult time during her first few months in Alabama?  If you were Ha, how would you feel about leaving Saigon? Is there a time in your life that you felt like you were different from others?  How were you treated?  How did you overcome that treatment?

Standards – CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Activity – Students will write a free verse poem about a time they felt different from others, describing how they felt, and how they overcame that feeling.

Sources –

Lesson Activities:

Free Verse Poem Rules (hint: there are NO rules):

Examples of Free Verse Poems:



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