Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is written in verse. I did not realize this when I selected the book to read it. I chose it strictly based on the what the cover looked like. (This is a great lesson for me in cover design. I wonder how many people choose their books solely by their covers?) When I started on page 1, I thought, "Oh, what a nice way to start the book. A short poem." Then I turned the page. And then I turned another page. Swipe swipe swipe. "The book is all poems? Oh, no. How did I pick a poetry book to take on vacation?"
I was pleasantly surprised to discover, that while the whole book is written in a poetic style I don't typically read, one chapter lead to the next and then the next and so forth, telling a rich and engaging story. So rich and engaging, in fact, that I could not put it down.
I was captivated by the narrator and her love for her family and especially touched by the scene when she discovers her brother has brought a beloved companion on-board for their journey. When his friend perishes and he is unable to let go, she selflessly wraps it in the arms of her treasured mouse-bitten doll before sending it into the depth of the sea, regretting it as any child would, a moment later:
Alone at the back of the ship I open Mother’s white handkerchief. Inside lies my mouse-bitten doll, her arms wrapped around the limp fuzzy body of his chick.
I tie it all into a bundle. Brother Khôi nods and I smile, but I regret not having my doll as soon as the white bundle sinks into the sea.
I treasured the lessons with Miss Washington and hope I have touched at least one life in the way that she does before my life is done. And I wholeheartedly agree with the author, "Whoever invented English should be bitten by a snake."