Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again

Ha's story begins in Vietnam at her family's home. Through short free verse poems she tells of her family's rich traditions and the quiet times she enjoys with them. Yet, despite the peace and happiness Ha describes, the Vietnam War is raging in the background. Families are being torn apart, separated into North and South by the Communists. Ha's father is lost in the separation and the family hopes for his return every day.
As the war begins to move closer and closer to the family home, they must decide whether or not they will stay in Vietnam. They quickly decide to board a boat with the hopes of starting over in another country. After several excruciating days at sea in a crowded boat, the family arrives in America. There they wait for a sponsor family. The sponsor family brings them to Alabama, where the majority of Ha's story takes place. She must learn English, attend a new school, and adapt to the lifestyle that the family now has. Through the support of her family and a few close friends, Ha overcomes the grief of leaving Vietnam and overcomes several obstacles as she adjusts to her new home.
Inside Out & Back Again is based on the real life experiences of the author, Thanhha Lai. It is rich with imagery and provides opportunities to discuss empathy, friendship, and diversity. A book truly worthy of the 2011 National Book Award.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yikes! It's been a while!!

It's hard to believe time has flown by so quickly since my last post. January has gone by in a blur. The last few months have been full of fantastic books. I'm just sorry I haven't been able to post about them. Here's a quickie run-down.
My summer teacher award project with our school media specialist was a hit. Together we reviewed over 50 titles and presented detailed "book hook" cards to support teachers as they match their students to books of appropriate levels and content. It felt good knowing that we were helping our colleagues help spread a love of reading.
In early January I treated myself to the "Chronicles of Harris Burdick" and "The Unwanteds". "The Unwanteds" was a recommendation from a college friend through facebook. What a hit! It's just like she said, Harry Potter meeting The Hunger Games. Magic, death, friendship, betrayal, good versus evil. I loved it! We now have two
copies in our classroom and it is quickly making it's rounds through partners.
Fast forward to the end of January. The school reading incentive is in full swing and this year, teachers get to par
ticipate too! I signed up to read 5 books by mid-March. Not an easy task this time of year. Luckily the latest selection of Newbery contenders was released by Booksource and Scholastic. It wasn't hard to stock up on some great new titles. First up is "Breadcrumbs" by Anne Ursu. The language in this book is enchanting. The plot is complex and the vocabulary complex, possibly too hard for my 5th graders. Yet, I can't put it down. I'm glued to it and as a result, I'll have all 300-something pages read by this evening. I started it after breakfast. Next up, "Wonderstruck," by Brian Selznick. I'm not sure it will be able to stand up to it's brother, "Hugo Cabret" but only time will tell. Perhaps it will win the Caldecott? Or will it be the Newbery?
Books on deck: "A Dog's Way Home" by Pyron, "Lunch-Box Dream" by Tony Abbott, "Inside Out & Back Again" by Lai, and "Witch & Wizard" by James Patterson. (Please note, "Witch and Wizard" was recommended by a student and to my knowledge, is not a possible Newbery contender at this time!)

Happy Reading!!