Review of When Clouds Touch Us

When Clouds Touch Us When Clouds Touch Us
by Thanhhà Lại
Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    256 pp.
5/23    9780063047006    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780063047020    $11.99

In this moving, empathetic follow-up to Lại’s National Book Award–winning and Newbery-honored verse novel Inside Out & Back Again (rev. 3/11), we follow another year of changes for Hà, now twelve, and her family, who are Vietnamese refugees. Lại’s vibrant first-person poems reflect her protagonist’s anxiety and confusion as she’s uprooted once again. Her mother moves the family from Alabama to Fort Worth, Texas, for a higher-paying factory job and the dream of purchasing a home. Adolescence looms, too: Hà gets her first period at school, and she’s mortified by conversations about boys and kissing. Yet she finds opportunities to grow and navigate her dual identities (what to “Absorb/Ignore”). She becomes more independent, starts a flower-selling business, and even questions the Vietnam War. The 1976 setting—America’s bicentennial—reinforces the idea that Hà and her family’s experiences are just as American as anyone’s. Strongly recommended for fans of the first book and readers interested in realistic, hardscrabble immigrant stories.

Pubissue-From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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