(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a diary written in verse follows ten-year-old Hà and her family as they move from war-torn Vietnam to the States during the Vietnam War. Hà struggles with having her life turned inside out before it settles down again as she adjusts to her new life in America.
Filled with imagery and onomatopoeia, this book shows the “other” side of the Vietnam War, written from the point of view of the Vietnamese refugees. In the author’s note, Lai explains that she wrote the book with second and future generations in mind to help them understand their roots. While the characters in the book are fictional, the events are based on Lai’s own experience moving to the States.
This book can be used to complement lessons on the Vietnam War. Students can do research about different aspects of Vietnam culture to present to the class.
It received recognition as a Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Children’s Book in 2012.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter I.
(Part of this was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)
I used Fact Monster Database – Asian Pacific Heritage Month: Celebrating Asian Contributions to America for an assignment to gather nonfiction and informational resources on a single topic, in this case, Asian American biographies.
This website was created by Fact Monster to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month and includes special feature articles about Asian Americans and their cultures, including interactive quizzes and activities. There is also a list of brief biographies of Asian Americans in many different fields, including politics, sports, literature, science, and art. All of the pages include links to relevant pages on Fact Monster if available. I chose this site because of the volume of biographies available and the ability to browse the list by occupation. I also appreciated the number of not just East Asians, but South and Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders who were on the list. Not all of the people on this list of biographies were born in the United States, but all spent a significant portion of their lives in the States and made a contribution to American society.
I never really used databases until starting library school, but I’ve found that they can be interesting resources. There are many free databases online, like Fact Monster, but there are also a lot that libraries pay for that are free to access with a library card. I really like having students use Student Resources in Context for research papers, but not all the library systems in my area offer it.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter F.
Zazoo is the name of a Vietnamese girl who was adopted by a French man who brings her back to France to be raised as his granddaughter. It is a poignant story of a girl who is trying to figure out how she belongs in a world where she feels completely French but looks different from everyone else. At the same time, she has to deal with the loneliness of the only family she has ever known struggling with dementia. In trying to learn about his past and hers, she meets a mysterious boy, uncovers horrible truths, and restores relationships torn apart by war.
I expected this book to be about belonging, but I didn’t expect it to be so sad. Dementia is such a devastating illness to those around the person afflicted, and when that person has also been through several wars in the thick of the fighting locally and abroad, it makes it even sadder still. And the fact the this 13-year-old girl is supposed to take care of him on her own seems like an impossible task.
I was really glad for the ending, when she finally gets some support in taking care of the old man she loves so much, and the love story within a love story was a nice way to weave together all the characters. I cried even more with this book than I did with Kira-Kira (this is what I get for choosing books based on the letter they begin with instead of the content), but there are themes of hope and reconciliation throughout the book.
It’s also a great diverse read that I haven’t really heard much about, maybe because it was published before I started following all the book blogs. I didn’t like the hardcover cover design very much, but the paperback cover is beautiful:
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Z. Yay!
Tiger by Jeff Stone is the first book in the Five Ancestors series about five young warrior monks whose temple, the only home and family they have ever known, is destroyed. They are the only survivors, starting them on a quest to learn about their pasts and save their country.
Even though Jeff Stone is not Chinese, he has a respect for the Chinese culture that comes through in these novels. He uses both Mandarin and Cantonese words throughout the books, including in the names of the characters, who are all named after animals that reflect their personalities. I don’t speak Cantonese, but by the time the words are romanized, they tend to come out similar to Mandarin, and it was fun trying to figure out what all the words meant (and brush up on my knowledge of Chinese animal names!).
This is a dark, suspenseful action-packed series that will leave you wanting to read the next book as soon as possible, so I would recommend getting your hands on a complete set before reading Tiger. Fortunately, I was able to get the first six ebooks all at once, and I borrowed the seventh and last book from my library way before I finished the sixth, so I was able to read straight through them.
If you can’t tell by the description above, this book is great for boys, and fast-paced enough for reluctant readers. I recommended it to my fifth graders last year, but I don’t think anyone ended up reading it. 😦 I’ll have to try harder to promote it this summer. Girls are usually more willing to read about boy main characters, and I think those who enjoy action or adventure stories will also like this series. There are also a few strong female characters in the series, so girls should have no problem relating. With all that action, it does get a little gory though, so be prepared for some blood.
Here’s Random House’s website for the series, complete with Flash trailer and cheesy music.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter T.