Author: Thanha Lai
Publisher: Harper Collins Children
Publication Date: Feburary, 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel-in-Verse
Harper Collins's Summary: 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, Hà 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. 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 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.
What I Think: When you hear the word refugee, most people will automatically think of refugees from Africa, but there are refugees from all parts of the world. This book shares a story of a young girl fleeing Vietnam during the war. It is 1975 and the war is threatening her city, Saigon, and life is getting worse and worse. When it was possible, her mother took her whole family to US where a family from Alabama sponsors them. This book is interesting because it deals with many different aspects- Vietnam war, refugee, ESL learners and bullying.
I will admit, I wish that this book was in prose. I felt that I was missing some of the story by it being in verse. I am a big fan of verse as I feel it really shows emotion beautifully and this is true with Inside Out as well; however, I wanted more of the story than this novel had. I wish it was a mix of prose and verse actually with the story in prose and her true emotions in verse, but that is wishful thinking just because I liked it so much and wanted more. It is an interesting book that will find an audience and deserved the awards it got.
Read Together: Grades 4 to 6
Read Alone: Grades 4 to 8
Read With: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg, Any nonfiction book about the Vietnam War and/or the refugees from Vietnam during the war
Very few books are about the same topic and for the same age, so these books are more along the same theme or same genre- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Once by Morris Gleitzman, Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Here are some books about the Vietnam War and/or refugees, but I haven't read them- Escape from Saigon by Andrea Warren, Goodbye Vietnam by Gloria Whelan, The Life We Were Given by Dana Sachs, Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Snatch of Text: "Two More Papayas
I see them first.
Two green thumbs
that will grown into
smelling of summer.
between a mango and a pear.
Soft as a yam
after three easy,
thrilling chews." (p. 21)
the spelling changes
when adding an s.
Knife becomes knives.
a c is used
instead of a k,
it makes more sense
for cat to be spelled kat.
a y is used
instead of an e,
it makes more sense
for moldy to be spelled molde.
Whoever invented English
should have learned
how to spell." (p. 177)
Mentor Text for: Novel in verse, Poetic Elements, Simile, Grammar/Spelling, Background Knowledge
Writing Prompts: Ha is treated poorly at school and is often bullied and tormented. What would you do if you saw a classmate in the situation Ha is in?; A lot changes for Ha when she gets to Alabama. What are the biggest differences she finds? What are her biggest challenges? What does she enjoy?
Topics Covered: Cross curricular- Vietnam War, Refugees, Immigration, Culture, Missing in Action; Bullying, ESL, Grammar, Family, School
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