icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

The Language Inside

The Language Inside
THE LANGUAGE INSIDE Guide for Teachers and Readers (1.31 MB)

A Discussion, Writing, Activity & Service Guide for THE LANGUAGE INSIDE

Print and share this extensive guide created for classrooms, book groups, readers and writers. Included are discussion questions, essay topics, poetry prompts, extension activities and service project ideas.



Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment. Emma feels out of place in the United States, begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan.

The Language Inside is a verse novel rich in language both spoken and unspoken and poetry that crosses boundaries to create a story layered with love, loss, movement and words.

Delacorte/Random House, May 2013

YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults
Notable Books for a Global Society 2014
Bank Street Best Books of the Year 2014
Notable Books for the Language Arts 2014
A Librarians' Choices 2013 Book
New England Book Festival Honor Book, YA Category
Nominated--2014 Sakura Medal

*STARRED REVIEW* "Thompson captures perfectly the feeling of belonging elsewhere. A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference." --
School Library Journal

"Thompson nimbly braids political tragedy, natural disaster, PTSD, connections among families, and a cautious, quiet romance into an elegant whole. This is an artistic picture of devastation, fragility, bonds and choices." --Kirkus Reviews

"There’s a lot going on here, but Thompson keeps the many plot elements cohesive, and the vivid imagery in the lyrical free verse lends immediacy to Emma’s turbulent feelings. Readers will finish the book knowing that, like Zena, the Cambodian refugees, and the tsunami victims, Emma has the strength to “a hundred times fall down / a hundred and one times get up.” Lists of poems referenced in the narrative and recommended resources are appended." --The Horn Book Magazine

"At first, all the strands seem like too much . . . . But Thompson, working in a free-verse style that becomes a seamless piece of a world imbued with poetry, weaves them together skillfully. The result is a touching portrait of Emma working through loss and opportunity as Lowell becomes not just “not-Japan,” but the site of new connections and a possible romance." --Publisher's Weekly

"I’m growing rather partial to Holly Thompson‘s ethnic-blending, boundary-crossing, expectation-defying titles for young adults." -- BookDragon

“With beautiful language and deep sensitivity, Holly Thompson explores the courage it takes to find your own voice.” —Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down

“Thompson’s eloquent novel speaks to us, carrying us along with Emma as she embarks on a life-altering journey from Japan to America. But it’s Emma’s inner journey that’s the true adventure—pulsing with pain and passion, with humor, heart, and hope.” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know and To Be Perfectly Honest