Book Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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I am using this book for the Eclectic Reader Challenge (New adult), Dystopia Challenge, Women Challenge, Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Book Club Friday, and Literary Friday.

Summary from Goodreads: Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love. Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. The first quarter of the book was so slow and took me forever to read. But the rest of the book was so good that I’ll let that slide! The ending was perfect as well. Going to see the movie today; hope it’s just half as good as the book!

4-stars

Early Literacy Programs in Libraries

**This is my Annotated Bibliography for the LIS 651 Introduction to Information Science course I took in Spring 2013.**

As I would like to be a children’s librarian in a public library, early literacy is a very interesting topic to me. The following articles demonstrate the importance of library programs that introduce both young children and their parents to reading. Research has shown that children who develop early literacy skills are more likely to be academically successful later on.

Albright, M., Delecki, K., & Hinkle, S. (2009). The evolution of early literacy: A history of best practices in storytimes. Children & Libraries, 7(1), 13-18.
SUMMARY:
In this article, the authors trace the history of library storytime programs. These programs began in the 1940s and are very similar to those in libraries today. When storytime programs were first created, their purpose was to prepare children for school, allow children to socialize, and instill a love of books in children. In the 1950s, library storytime programs became more literacy-focused as a means of helping children learn to read. While at the time their methods of rhyme, repetition, and dramatization were seen as engaging rather than educational, we know now the importance of these techniques. One issue with library storytimes is whether or not to include the parents. The authors conclude that the parents should be present at storytime to learn how to better use books as learning tools.

Ash, V., & Meyers, E. (2009). Every Child Ready to Read @ your library: How it all began. Children & Libraries, 7(1), 3-7.
SUMMARY:
This article examines how the Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) program was implemented in public libraries by the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children. It began in the year 2000, when a report on the importance of early literacy development was published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. ECRR was designed for public libraries to support parents in developing children’s early literacy skills. Six pre-reading skills were identified and parents were taught how to enhance their children’s development of these skills in ECRR workshops and through ECRR publications. ECRR materials can be adapted to meet the different needs of communities, and this was demonstrated through three case studies.

Becker, K. (2012). 24 hours in the children’s section: An observational study at the public library. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(2), 107-114.
SUMMARY:
The author of this article observed patrons in the children’s section of a small town public library in Arizona. She visited two branches of the library for a total of 12 two-hour visits. She noticed that the children’s department was busiest during the library’s storytime program. She also observed that parents used the library as a place to socialize with one another and to use the library’s computers. Her most relevant findings, however, were related to children developing early literacy skills, learning how to use the library, and demonstrating other skills (language, social, problem solving, etc.).

Bodrova, E., Leong, D. J., & Norford, J. S. (2003). It only looks like child’s play. Journal of Staff Development, 24(2), 47-51.
SUMMARY:
This article examines the Scaffolding Early Literacy program, which teaches early childhood educators how to use literacy theory in the classroom. Studies have shown that students in classrooms that implement this program are likely to demonstrate increased cognitive, language, and literacy skills. The program is based on seven interrelated principles and its strategies allow children to focus on more than one skill at a time. The Scaffolding Early Literacy program also provides a curriculum, assessment system, and continued professional learning for teachers.

Dickerson, C. (2012). The preschool literacy and you (PLAY) room: Creating an early literacy play area in your library. Children & Libraries, 10(1), 11-15.
SUMMARY:
This article was written by an Ohio librarian who received a grant to create a PLAY (Preschool Literacy and You) room in a public library. This space was designed for local children who are unprepared for kindergarten. The space consists of learning centers where children can visit the market or post office, play with dolls and puppets, read books, or use computers. There is also a special section for babies. Each center comes with an activity sheet that is arranged by five literacy skill builders and includes booklists, rhymes, and activities. The computers have touch screen monitors, color-coded keyboards, and are loaded with dozens of literacy development programs. Other literacy enhancers in the PLAY room include wall panels where children can create stories and a “Spin a Story” section. Volunteers in the PLAY room create word labels in multiple languages and are also encouraged to offer suggestions on how to increase literacy aspects of play.

Fehrenbach, L. A., Hurford, D. P., Fehrenbach, C. R, & Brannock, R. G. (1998). Developing the emergent literacy of preschool children through a library outreach program. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 12(1), 40-45.
SUMMARY:
This article stresses the importance of library outreach programs. Not all children are able to visit the library, so the library should come to them. The authors conducted a study to evaluate one such outreach program. 29 preschool-aged children were participants in this study. There was one control group and two experimental groups. The children in the experimental groups had a librarian present an interactive storytime program twice a week for six weeks. The children in all groups were assessed both before and after the study to measure their emergent literacy, pre-reading, and reading skills. The scores of the experimental group participants increased significantly while those of the control group did not. These findings indicate that storytime programs provide preschool-aged children with important early literacy skills.

Fulton, R. (2009). Taking it to the streets: Every Child Ready to Read on the go. Children & Libraries, 7(1), 8-12.
SUMMARY:
The author of this article is a children’s librarian at Cleveland Public Library, which has implemented the Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) program. They tweaked the program by making it mobile. Their On the Road to Reading program is housed in a bookmobile and provides parents and child care providers with the information needed to create literacy-rich environments. Child care providers are taught how to provide children with six early literacy skills through storytime. Parents are taught these six skills as well and given a brochure and book. The article also details how the program used their bookmobile as an advertising strategy, what books they chose to add to the collection, and how they recruited participants for the program.

Hands, A. S., & Johnson, A. (2012). Lighting the way: Grant applications showcase range of programming ideas. Children & Libraries, 10(2), 56-57.
SUMMARY:
This article details many of the project ideas that were submitted in applications for the 2012 Light the Way: Library Outreach to the Underserved grant. There were two proposed projects which would serve teen parents through storytime programs, book distribution, and literacy material instruction. A very interesting proposal was titled City Bus Outreach, in which librarians would ride public buses and point out library branch locations, discuss the library’s services, distribute children’s resource bags, and register riders for library cards. Another proposal sought to provide storytime programs to deaf and hearing-impaired children, as well as provide early literacy workshops for their parents and add sign language books and DVDs to the library collection. There were also project proposals for a storytime program for children with physical or learning differences and for a program to assist parents who don’t speak English as their first language in helping their children with homework.

Irwin, J. R., Moore, D. L., Tornatore, L. A., & Fowler, A. E. (2012) Expanding on early literacy: Promoting emerging language and literacy during storytime. Children & Libraries, 10(2), 20-28.
SUMMARY:
This article states that early success in reading leads to future reading success, which also affects achievement in other school subjects. The skills that prepare children to be successful readers include alphabet knowledge, concepts about print, phonological awareness, and expressive vocabulary. The authors provide the key elements of a storytime program that allows children to enhance these skills. It should be planned around a goal, engaging, developmentally appropriate, and allow children to interact. Specific storytime activities are suggested which focus on each of the four skills as well as book handling.

Kissinger, A. M. (2004). The need for emergent literacy events in schools. Knowledge Quest, 33(2), 58-60.
SUMMARY:
It is important that parents are literacy role models for and share an enthusiasm for books with their children. This should be done through informal activities rather than formal (flash cards, workbooks). There are three different dialogic styles that parents can model when reading a story: describer, comprehender, and performance-oriented. The author also makes the point that library outreach programs only work if they reach lower-literacy families. She also suggests that librarians follow the MVP strategy in order to assist parents. Librarians should model behavior, verbalize what they are doing, and provide a print description of the activity.

Martinez, G. (2008). Public libraries – Community organizations making outreach efforts to help young children succeed in school. School Community Journal, 18(1), 93-104.
SUMMARY:
This collective case study included 26 public librarians in Maryland, in different demographic and socioeconomic areas. The research goal was to discover how these librarians and their programs provided early literacy opportunities. The librarians were interviewed, key phrases were identified, outreach documents were collected, and the information from the four different counties was analyzed. The findings showed that public libraries were providing outreach to various community organizations and the librarians wanted to expand these services further and evaluate them.

McKechnie, L. E. F. (2006). Observations of babies and toddlers in library settings. Library Trends, 55(1), 190-201.
SUMMARY:
This article details an exploratory participant observation study conducted by the authors. They observed eleven thirty-minute baby storytime programs in two branches of a public library system and conducted parent interviews. The results concluded that the children engaged in early literacy activities and social interaction. The parents benefited as well as they were able to obtain and exchange information. The authors explain why participant observation works best in this situation and provide tips for conducting a similar study.

McKenzie, P. J., & Stooke, R. K. (2012). Making a difference: The importance of purposes to early learning programs. Children & Libraries, 10(2), 47-52.
SUMMARY:
For their research, the authors of this article observed 50 storytime programs and informally interviewed participants. They found that parents went to storytime programs to get out of the house, become part of a social support group, and support their children’s development. The goals of the storytime program sponsors, which included public libraries and other non-profit community organizations, were to support and educate parents as well as demonstrate their own value to the community and funders. The authors explore what occurs when these goals align and when they conflict. They also suggest that libraries and community organization can learn from each other. Storytime programs should include use of physical artifacts, rhymes, and interactions as well as socially support the parents. Good storytime programs also improvise, are flexible, and are open to all.

Pannebaker, S. (2008). One Book, Every Young Child: Pennsylvania literacy initiative enters third year. Children & Libraries, 6(2), 36-39.
SUMMARY:
This article introduces the One Book, Every Young Child program in Pennsylvania, which was in its third year at the time of publication. Its purpose is to foster early childhood literacy by teaching parents how quality interactive experiences with books are critical for young children. The article then details the history of the program and lists its goals: to increase awareness among parents and the community of the need for practices that promote early literacy development, reach at-risk children, and collaborate with schools. The program selects one picture book each year, which is mailed to child care centers across the state. Promotional materials are created and the author and illustrator of the book make appearances. Puppets, games, and a guide related to the selected book are also available at libraries and child care centers.

Peterson, S. S. (2012). Preschool early literacy programs in Ontario public libraries. The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research, 7(2), 1-21.
SUMMARY:
This study was conducted using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Library staff members, parents, and children from ten public libraries’ preschool early literacy programs in Ontario were research participants. It was discovered that staff members’ goals for preschool library programs were school readiness (including developing learning routines and listening skills) and instilling a love for libraries and reading in the children. The goals of parents were to prepare their children for school by allowing them to interact with other children, in groups, and without their parents present; to have their children develop a love for books and reading; and to enhance child-parent relationships. The results of the study concluded that after the programs, children were more engaged with books, displayed improved social skills, learned to follow directions and listen, and demonstrated a greater knowledge of letters, words, and phonics. The parents also reported that they learned new ways to interact with their children using books.

Snell, K. (2008). Ready to Read grant: How Columbus Metropolitan Library got it and what they learned. Children & Libraries, 6(2), 45-48.
SUMMARY:
The author works for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which implemented the Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) program in 2004. A library staff member partnered with an employee from an organization called Action for Children to apply for a United Way grant, which they received in 2007. The Columbus Metropolitan Library and Action for Children used the grant money to sponsor workshops for library staff members and parents and distribute tool kits filled with books, puppets, and other resources. They used free meals as an incentive to get parents to attend the workshops.

Strickland, M., & Abbott, L. (2010). Enhancing the early reading experience: Books, strategies, and concepts. Reading Teacher, 64(1), 66-68.
SUMMARY:
This article offers assistance to parents and teachers in choosing books that will enhance children’s early literacy skills. It states these six skills, as defined by the Public Library Association: vocabulary, narrative connections, print motivation, print awareness, letter knowledge, and phonological awareness. The article provides questions pertaining to each specific skill that parents and teachers can ask themselves when selecting books. Examples are also provided of books that highlight each skill.

Teale, W. H. (1999). Libraries promote early literacy learning: Ideas from current research and early childhood programs. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 12(3), 9-16.
SUMMARY:
The way librarians think about literacy changed as these three concepts emerged: literacy learning starts early, young children construct their understandings of literacy, and adults are vital in teaching children literacy. While it was once thought that children didn’t learn to read and write until age five, it is now known that this can occur at a younger age. Children learn literacy independently through exploration such as invented spelling but parents also need to assist in the process by providing learning opportunities. Librarians can also promote early literacy learning through storytime programs, creative children’s departments, and library activities that incorporate reading and writing.

Thomas, J. (2008). Wonderful “ones”: The key to successful storytimes for one-year-olds. Children & Libraries, 6(1), 23-27.
SUMMARY:
Providing a storytime program suitable for one-year-olds can be a challenge. But it can be done if the following elements are included: lots of action, parental involvement, a loud voice, singing, and patience! Objectives for the children include interacting with other children, recognizing letters and numbers, improving motor skills, and being able to identify body parts, colors, and shapes. The author outlines a typical storytime schedule and states that repetition is key. He only changes the storytime slightly from week to week.

Williams, A. (2007). Storytime model for large groups: Implications for early literacy. Children & Libraries, 5(2), 27-29.
SUMMARY:
This article explains how library storytime providers can maximize their services to preschool-aged children by following the Storytime Model for Large Groups. A large group is defined as thirty or more participants. The author’s suggestions for library storytime providers include to have participants pre-register, schedule ample time for the program, wear distinguishing clothing, consult with caregivers about storytime themes, and advertise the program. The author states that the Storytime Model for Large Groups supports the Every Child Ready to Read program.

Children’s Book Reviews

I read these books for my Literature & Media for Children class.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead

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This book won the 2011 Caldecott medal. I was drawn to A Sick Day for Amos McGee by its cover art, which shows an elephant, a penguin, and an old man playing cards. I enjoyed this book and it definitely met my expectations as well as standards for quality. I loved both the story and the illustrations. The story is silly (a zookeeper plays chess with an elephant), which children will enjoy, and also heartwarming (when the zookeeper gets sick, all the animals come take care of him). The illustrations are of high quality and correlate with the text. There are several pages where there are only illustrations and no text, and on these pages the pictures tell the story (the animals wait at the bus stop and then take the bus to the zookeeper’s house). This is the first book Erin Stead illustrated and it states that she used “woodblock printing techniques and pencil”. She is clearly a talented artist and I like how she uses colors sparingly to make the illustrations pop.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park

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I think children would be drawn to Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by the title and the cover, which depicts a grumpy-looking girl holding her nose. The book had short chapters with a few black-and-white illustrations included. I enjoyed reading it and think that children would like it as well. At first I thought it would be good for kids who are about to start kindergarten, but after finishing it I changed my mind! All the trouble Junie B. gets herself into might make them more nervous. 🙂 My favorite aspects of the book were that the author really gave Junie B. Jones a voice (she spoke like a five-year-old, using incorrect grammar sometimes) and it was funny. I also liked that Junie loved the library and books! The only thing that I think some parents might not like is that she uses some “inappropriate” words such as hate, dumb, and stupid. This book clearly is controversial as it is one of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000 to 2009. For this reason, I think it should be read at home or with a parent rather than in a group at school or in a library program.

Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

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Creepy Carrots! was recently selected as one of five 2013 Caldecott Honor Books. This delightful picture book tells the story of Jasper Rabbit, who fears he is being stalked by the delicious yet creepy carrots from Crackenhopper Field. To ease his paranoia, Jasper builds a tall fence around the carrot patch, complete with an alligator-filled moat. The humorous story concludes with a twist: the carrots’ plan all along had been for Jasper to leave them alone, and it worked! While the story is cute and funny, the illustrations that accompany the text are the highlight. The illustrator drew the pictures in shades of grey, with pops of orange on each page to emphasize the carrots and other small objects. The “creepy” Jack-O-Lantern-esque faces of the stalking carrots lend amusement to the story as well.

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton

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This colorful board book introduces basic animal sounds to young children. Each page is a different bright color in contrast to the brown, gray, and white animals displayed on the pages. Moo, Baa, La La La adds a dose of silliness to the mix by featuring three pink pigs who sing instead of saying “oink”. Other animals in the book include a cow, a sheep, rhinoceroses, dogs, cats, a duck, and a horse. Children learn the sounds made by these animals while reading this fun, rhyming story.

Pride & Prejudice, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver

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Pride & Prejudice is a counting primer that takes readers from numbers 1 through 10 using scenes inspired by the classic novel. Adults who have read the Jane Austen book will appreciate details such as the girl on the cover wearing a shirt that says “I Romeo & Juliet. This book series captured my interest due to the quality of the artwork. The drawings are very sophisticated for a children’s board book. Parents who want to introduce their children to classic works at an early age would be very interested in Pride & Prejudice and its counterparts. Even though I have never read the novel I can appreciate the quality of this board book and understand its appeal.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

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Eric Carle is a renowned author and illustrator and this book certainly exceeds expectations. The cover art draws the reader in as it depicts a multi-colored chameleon with its long tongue stuck out to catch a fly. The technique used is tissue paper collage, which is very distinctive to the author. It is easy to recognize his illustrations and they are very aesthetically pleasing as well. Every color of the rainbow is used in the book and children will be delighted by the vivid imagery. There are also tabs on the pages for each zoo animal so that readers can flip to the page of their choice if desired. On the final page of the book each tab is linked to its corresponding color of the rainbow. Not only are the illustrations superb, but the story is captivating as well. The moral of the story and what children should learn from it is to be happy with who you are. The book provides this lesson in a discreet manner without taking attention away from the story or preaching. It is very exciting to turn each page and see what animal the chameleon has wished to be next and what silly part has been added to its body.

The Boston Tea Party, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Peter Malone

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The Boston Tea Party was a very important event in American history. Russell Freeman’s book explains this historical happening so that young readers can understand its significance. The Boston Tea Party provides a detailed introduction explaining what led to the uprising and then presents the story in a straightforward manner, introducing historical figures such as Governor Hutchinson and Samuel Adams. Peter Malone’s watercolor illustrations and first-hand accounts from participants who played a pivotal role in dumping out the tea add to the story of that fateful night in 1773. The book also includes a map of Boston at the time and an afterword which explains the consequences and results of the Boston Tea Party, stating that some believe it was the true start of the Revolutionary War.

What to Do About Alice?, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

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What to Do About Alice?
is unique in that it’s both a biography and a picture book. Subtitled How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, this book presents some background history on former president Teddy Roosevelt through anecdotes about his daughter’s life. Delightful digital illustrations accompany the captivating story of Alice Roosevelt, who became a goodwill ambassador and world traveler while never losing her spunk. This inspirational tale of a girl who overcame a physical handicap and taught herself various subjects by reading books from her father’s library will appeal to elementary school aged girls. What to Do About Alice? has won numerous awards, including Parents Choice Award and Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award.

Butterflies by Seymour Simon

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While the migration of monarchs is a well-known phenomenon, the first page of Seymour Simon’s Butterflies presents an amazing and more obscure fact: “The life span of a monarch is shorter than the time it takes to complete the migration every year. No one monarch makes the whole round-trip journey.” And so begins this book, which is chock full of tidbits of information and strikingly beautiful photographs sure to captivate the attention of its readers. Readers will learn about the difference between moths and butterflies, their life cycles, their body parts, what butterflies live in the US, and interesting butterflies that live elsewhere in the world. Nature enthusiasts can use the book as a field guide to identify butterflies. Simon also instructs readers on how to create their own butterfly gardens.

Book Review: Sophia’s War by Avi

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I read this book for my Literature & Media for Children class. I am using it for the Treasure Hunt (a girl’s name), Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, and Literary Friday.

Summary from Goodreads: Lives hang in the balance in this gripping Revolutionary War adventure from a beloved Newbery medalist. In 1776, young Sophia Calderwood witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City, which is newly occupied by the British army. Sophia is horrified by the event and resolves to do all she can to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America. Through her work she becomes aware that someone in the American army might be switching sides, and she uncovers a plot that will grievously damage the Americans if it succeeds. But the identity of the would-be traitor is so shocking that no one believes her, and so Sophia decides to stop the treacherous plot herself, at great personal peril: She’s young, she’s a girl, and she’s running out of time. And if she fails, she’s facing an execution of her own. Master storyteller Avi shows exactly how personal politics can be in this riveting novel that is rich in historical detail and rife with action.

My review for my class: Sophia’s War follows the title character as she matures from from a twelve-year-old who witnesses the hanging of Nathan Hale to a fifteen-year old who becomes a spy for the Patriots. Readers of all ages will be able to relate to Sophia’s inner turmoil as she plots to destroy the man she thought she loved. Set during the Revolutionary War, readers will learn much about this period in time and notable historical figures such as Benedict Arnold. Author Avi also intended to portray the shocking treatment of American prisoners during this war in a realistic manner. A glossary is included to further educate readers on eighteenth-century words.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I didn’t like the “voice” the author used. I guess it was supposed to be authentically eighteenth-century, but it just seemed too formal and fake to me. Also a twelve-year-old falling in love with an adult who flirts with her was kind of creepy.

3stars

Book Review: The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

the storm in the barn matt phelan

I read this book for my Literature & Media for Children class. I am using it for the Treasure Hunt (weather, a type of building), Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, and 52 Books in 52 Weeks.

Summary from Goodreads: Tall tale. Thriller. Gripping historical fiction. This artful, sparely told graphic novel — a tale of a boy in Dust Bowl America — will resonate with young readers today. In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of “dust dementia” would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot’s abandoned barn — a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it’s hard to trust what you see with your own eyes — and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. With phenomenal pacing, sensitivity, and a sure command of suspense, Matt Phelan ushers us into a world where desperation is transformed by unexpected courage.

My review for my class: The Storm in the Barn is historical fiction in the form of a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Winner of the 2010 Scott O’Dell Award, this book is set during the Dust Bowl that plagued Kansas in the 1930s. Jack is an 11-year-old who hasn’t seen rain for four years, is constantly bullied by other boys in his town, and reads the Oz books with his sick sister, fittingly named Dorothy. His only escape from this dreary world is the tall tales he hears from a local shopkeeper, Ernie. That is until he discovers a mysterious figure, who appears to have a face that looks like rain, in an abandoned barn. Is Jack suffering from dust dementia… Or is there something more to this apparition?

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I didn’t care for the artistic style used in this graphic novel or the plot. I felt like you didn’t get to know the characters very well either.

3stars

Book Review: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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I read this book for my Literature & Media for Children class. I am using it for the Women Challenge, Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, and Book Club Friday.

Summary from Goodreads: 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, Ha 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. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Ha 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.

My review for my class: This beautifully written novel chronicles a year in the life of Kim Ha. It is 1975 and Ha is only ten years old when she escapes Vietnam with her family, just before the fall of Saigon, and moves to America in search of a better life. There she encounters both kindness, in the form of a neighbor who tutors her daily, and cruelty, from a classmate she calls “Pink Boy” who ridicules her for being different. Inside Out & Back Again is both funny and touching, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at Ha’s attempts to learn the grammatical rules of English, which are undoubtedly illogical and frustrating. Based on the experiences of author Thanhha Lai, this book provides an honest look at what it’s like to be an immigrant through poetic journal entries.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars! Loved it.

4-stars