Book Review 9 – All the Broken Pieces
Matt is a Vietnamese refugee that comes to America and is taken in by a foster family. He suffers from prejudice from kids at school, on the baseball team. He befriends Jeff, a doctor that served in Vietnam and is a family friend who teaches him how to play the piano and takes him to discussions with vets from Vietnam. He initially receives a cool reception from the vets but later they all open up to each other. Matt also makes the baseball team and is championed by Coach Robeson. Matt suffers from the guilt of his brother’s injuries, his mother giving him to the American troops, fear of being given up by his foster family, and a lot of anger directed towards him from his classmates. Matt starts out as a confused and scared kid who by the end is successful and confident due to the adults in his life who provide him with a level of stability and encouragement from Coach Robeson, his mom and dad, and Jeff.
Burg, A. E. (2009). All the broken pieces. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
I loved this book. I didn’t know much about this genre and this book was a great introduction. It really makes me love the genre and want to engage more books written in this style. That is one of the reasons that I recommend for library uses using this book as an intro to this genre because I loved this book so much.
Matt is truly a great character. He has had a lot of hardship and horrible things happen to him in his short life. He was given up by his mom to American soldiers to flee to America and live a new life. He has to deal with issues of racism from fellow students. And he gets a cool shoulder from Vietnam vets who wonder why he shows up at their meetings. A really good friend of mine for the last 24 years is someone who grew up in my hometown as a bi-racial kid of Asian and white descent who suffered a lot of racist comments due to the Vietnam war. I could only see him as Matt throughout the book and many of the stories that he told me that happened to him as a kid. Matt gets through it all, but in a very realistic way that the author at times portrays him as wanting to secretly fail to not have to face the trouble. However, the adults in his life stand behind him and he stands firm. I loved how he connected to the vets at the meeting that Jeff took him to. The ending with Rob and both telling their stories of what happened to them was not as good to me but I liked that in the end they connected.
Jeff, Matt’s dad, and Coach Robeson were great characters. They were strong male role-models for Matt. I really liked how Coach Robeson beat cancer. I was concerned that this would cause him to die and be another horrible incident in Matt’s life. Jeff was a family friend who gave Matt piano lessons and could connect with him over Vietnam because he served there. Matt’s dad was always encouraging him and playing ball with him into the late evening.
The setting was not as well defined but I thought that Burg used the setting as a typical American town in American is the 1970’s well. The setting of the Vietnam vets at the meeting was important as well. I could just see the room with the vets and how over time they warmed up to Matt.
Overall a powerful book that really is the first book in this genre that makes me want to read more books like this.
Airlifted from Vietnam at the end of the war and adopted by a loving American family, Matt Pin, 12, is haunted by what he left behind, even as he bonds with his new little brother and becomes a star pitcher on the school baseball team. In rapid, simple free verse, the first-person narrative gradually reveals his secrets: his memories of mines, flames, screams, helicopters, bombs, and guns, as well as what the war did to his little brother (“He followed me / everywhere, / he follows me still”). But this stirring debut novel is about much more than therapy and survivor guilt. When his parents take Matt to a veterans’ meeting, he hears the soldiers’ stories of injury and rejection and begins to understand why the school bully calls him “frogface” (“My brother died / Because of you”). There is occasional contrivance as Matt eavesdrops on adults. But the haunting metaphors are never forced, and the intensity of the simple words, on the baseball field and in the war zone, will make readers want to rush to the end and then return to the beginning again to make connections between past and present, friends and enemies.
Rochman, H. (2009). All the broken pieces. Booklist 105(12), p. 80.
This book is an excellent way to introduce the verse novel genre. The concerns of the character can easily be transferred to kids who are in upper elementary school or middle school with relations with other kids and adults in their life. It is well written and engaging. Verse novels are becoming more popular and this book can be a great introduction to the genre for kids.