All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg. Grades 6-8. Scholastic, April 2009. Copy provided by my local library. This is a Cybils nominee and my review reflects only my own opinion, not necessarily that of the panel.
Matt was airlifted out of his home country of Vietnam as the war went on around him. He left his mother and his brother behind. He never told anyone the whole truth about his life in Vietnam, not even his adoptive parents. The secrets he keeps haunt him still.
When Matt discovers a love for music and for baseball, both hobbies help him deal with his new life. But Matt will have to open up about what happened in Vietnam before he can ever truly be healed.
This verse novel is one that sticks with me. I just can't seem to get it out of my mind. And that's the mark of a good story.
It's a credit to her writing that Ann Burg is able to create such a sense of place and time and characters while writing in verse. She knows all the right words to put the reader right where she needs to be.
Right from the beginning, you know that Matt's got a lot to deal with. When he wakes from a nightmare, his adoptive mother is there to comfort him:
"You are safe, my precious child.
You are safe now, you are home.
We have found you and we love you.
You will never be alone.
There are no mines here,
no flames, no screams,
no sounds of helicopters
or shouting guns.
I am safe.
How can I
For, even though Vietnam is war-torn and dangerous, Matt still misses it. His home. And people in America have mixed feelings about him being there. Scenes where Matt visits a veteran support group show the tension and misconceptions among Americans about the war.
It's a haunting story and starkly beautiful. I'd pair it with Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate to start a discussion on war and refugees.
Read more reviews at The Reading Zone, Stacked, Oops...Wrong Cookie, and Literate Lives.