Some books you read and question the criticism about them. They are either good when critics say they are bad, or they are bad when critics say they are great. Inside Out & Back Again has received a National Book Award, is a Newberry Honor Book and a New York Times Best Seller. This book deserves all of its accolades and more — it is a great book.
I will strongly encourage my students to read this book. There are several lessons that students can take away from this book. The biggest being the lesson compassion for others. I wept when I read about MiSSS SScott showed her class the pictures her sent her from Vietnam where he gave his life for children like Ha. Tanhha Lai reads an excerpt from that section in the video below.
Bullying is a terrible problem for students. We have all had to pink face kid in our lives at some point, some have moved on unscathed while others are scarred for life. There are to many pink faced kids in the world that continue their lives unchecked by a society too afraid to correct the child’s despicable actions. I cheered for Ha when she laid out the boy because she did not like hurting him. She understood that causing harm to others is the easy road while refraining from violence is by far more difficult.
Ha was an adult in the body of a ten year old. She could read and comprehend philosophy. She could figure out the percentages of fractions and could see the beauty of nature and appreciate the gift of a full belly. By all accounts, she was years ahead of her peers but was treated like an inferior because of a language gap.
I think it would be a great project for students to write about what they think it would be like to be student that is superior in ability and skill to your class mates but to be treated poorly as an incompetent because they communicate differently from you. Students would have to think critically about Ha’s struggles and try to express how their own struggles would be in their modern world.