Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’

“Dear friends, let us not forget the flesh of Christ which is in the flesh of refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ.”—Pope Francis

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 6-8

Review and Thoughts

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a young Vietnamese girl named Ha.  While Ha is a young girl in Vietnam, she witnesses the fall of Saigon, escapes with her family to Alabama, and struggles to learn to adapt to a new life in America.  The innocent viewpoint of the young girl is a stark contrast to the seriousness of the war and of her position as a refugee.  The novel, which is written entirely in poetry, is simple and delicate and tells a story of survival and growth for Ha and her family.

The novel is broken into four parts.  Each part speaks of a different portion of Ha’s journey.  She tells about her life in Saigon before the North comes and her eventual escape from Saigon.  Next, she describes her terrible journey on boat floating at sea and nearly starving until she and her family are rescued by the Americans.  Her family’s “adoption” by a man in Alabama and their struggle to adapt to a new culture is a difficult one.  Finally, she accepts her family’s fate and learns to live as a young girl in Alabama. Continue reading Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’

Lessons In Love: A Review of ‘Little Bear’

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”–St. Therese of Lisieux

Suggested Grade Level:  
Grades K-1

Review and Thoughts:

Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik is one of those chapter books that beginning readers are drawn to and excited to read.  This story is told through simple vocabulary and captivating pictures.  I have always enjoyed reading stories about fictional bears (Corduroy, Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington) because of their innocence, and they are just so adorable.  Then again, it might be that these stories bring back memories of my own little brown Teddy who was a constant companion for a time in my youth.

The four chapters in this book tell a story of a mother’s love for her Little Bear – simple, giving, and sacrificial – through actions and special endearing words.  It also tells the story of Little Bear responding to and reflecting on the love from his mother. Continue reading Lessons In Love: A Review of ‘Little Bear’

Making the World More Beautiful: A Review of ‘Miss Rumphius’

Suggested Grade Level:

Kindergarten -2nd Grade

Review and Thoughts

 “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

This was the advice given to the main character, Alice, by her very wise grandfather.  Alice was just a little girl with big dreams, but she took his advice to heart and made it the third goal she hoped to achieve in her lifetime.  But she wasn’t sure exactly how she would do that.

When she grew up she traveled and experienced marvelous sites, adventures, and friendships.  She lived happily by the sea.  “She was almost happy.”  It took Alice a long time to discover how to accomplish her third goal – the challenge given to her by her grandfather.  As an old woman living by the sea Alice saw that the little garden next to her house had scattered its seeds to new and surprising locations.  She saw the beauty and it renewed her effort to spread this beauty.   She began to scatter handfuls of seeds wherever she walked.  The next spring exploded with lupine beauty.  The promise to her grandfather was accomplished.  She had made the world more beautiful. Continue reading Making the World More Beautiful: A Review of ‘Miss Rumphius’

Conquered by Love: A Review of ‘Left to Tell’

“Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.” —Saint Pope John Paul II

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 9-12

Review and Thoughts

Truly, Left to Tell is one of the greatest books I have ever read, not only from the perspective of a teacher, but also from the perspective of a young Catholic woman.  This book has touched me more than any other Catholic nonfiction because of the simple and innocent testimony of Immaculee Ilibagiza.

This book tells the story of Immaculee and her family who are devout Catholics living in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  She is a member of the Tutsi tribe that is mercilessly hunted and murdered by the Hutus during what is one of the most devastating genocides in modern history.  Immaculee is fortunate enough to find a hiding place with a nearby Christian minister and lives in his private bathroom with seven other woman.  It is through her prayer and faith in God coupled with the bravery and charity of the pastor that she is able to survive and emerge from the bathroom a whole woman both physically and mentally. Continue reading Conquered by Love: A Review of ‘Left to Tell’

Literature reviews from the Catholic side