WOW Dozen: Social and Emotional Growth and Children’s Books

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ

This COVID-19 post-pandemic era has been difficult for many of us. In the school district I (Junko Sakoi) am working for, stories have played a significant role in social emotional support for children and teens. Stories have eased their anxiety, stress, fear, and trauma, and helped them find a way to cope with the difficulties. This collection includes PreK–12 titles that portray young characters’ social and emotional struggles. These books could help children build resilience through self-discovery and growth as they cultivate empathetic connections and caring perspectives in relationships. Continue reading

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Novels that Present the Journey

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Santiago's Road Home, depicting a young boy, and little girl, and a young woman on a yellow road leading into the distance away from houses in the foreground.
This week, I would like to talk about several novels in WOW Currents for 2020 that present a journey. Santiago’s Road Home by Alexandra Diaz, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai, Beast Rider by Tony Johnston, The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, and Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai. All are amazing stories of young people who make a journey for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Author’s Corner: Thanhhà Lai

Susan Corapi, Associate Professor, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Up-close profile photo of Thanhha Lai smiling.

Photo Credit: Steve Puppe

Quite candidly, Thanhhà Lai is one of my heroes because of what her books do for my students. Each semester, as I read Inside Out & Back Again (2011) with my pre-service teachers, they gain immeasurable insights from Hà’s story that will help them teach English Language Learners in a way that supports them academically, socially and emotionally. Hà’s story teaches what compassion looks like. The relationships, cultural clashes, and questions she has with teachers, neighbors, schoolmates, church attendees and family members help readers gain a window into how a newly arrived refugee might feel and think. I have yet to meet a college student who was not moved to be a better teacher for children or teens who are adjusting to a new culture and language. That is a powerful book! The U.S. is experiencing increased chaos due to the pandemic, resulting unemployment and racial violence, so there is an important place in schools for narratives that teach students compassion, the ability to get along, and especially the need to understand behavior as motivated by values and beliefs. Hà’s story does that for readers willing to engage with her emotional and academic journey. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

A Conversation with Thanhhà Lại

Cover of Inside Out and Back Again shows a girl in silhouette holding a palm tree with a vibrant dusk or dawn horizon.Please enjoy this one-hour webinar with Thanhhà Lại, the award-winning author of Inside Out & Back Again. She talks about how she came to write this book as a novel in verse and the connections to her life. She shares the differing ways she represents language learning in her books, including her most recent novel, Butterfly Yellow, the WOW Recommends selection for October 2020.

Thanhhà Lại is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Inside Out & Back Again, which won both a National Book Award and a Newbery Honor. This semi-autobiographical, debut novel in verse is taught throughout the world. Her second novel, Listen, Slowly, was named to numerous best books of the year lists. Her recent novel Butterfly Yellow, a YA debut, was reviewed in the New York Times as “a radiant pearl of a book.” Before turning fiction, Thanhhà was a reporter at The Orange County Register in Southern California. She was born in Việt Nam and now lives in New York with her family. To learn more about Thanhhà and her charity, Việt Kids Inc., visit

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Inside Out and Back Again: About Thanhha Lai

By Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, Teachers College, Columbia University


“If someone is different from you, go stand next to her and observe. That person just brought another world to your door without you having to travel.”

-Thanhha Lai


This Sunday, November 18, a group of teachers, librarians, and teacher educators had the pleasure to hear award-winning author Thanhha Lai talking about her novel Inside Out and Back Again.

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