all the broken pieces
by ann e. burg
Scholastic Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher
We don't review YA books here very often, but this is one you won't want to miss.
This novel in verse shows the reader the ways that war breaks people, and the ways that they work to put the broken pieces back together.
Told in first person from the point of view of Matt Pin, a twelve year-old Vietnamese American boy who was airlifted out of Vietnam and adopted by an American family, the story weaves the threads of Matt learning to play the piano and joining the baseball team with his memories of his younger brother in Vietnam having his feet and hands blown off by a land mine. A variety of perspectives on war can be found in the course of the story: Matt's father feels guilty because he went to medical school instead of Vietnam. Matt suffers from the racism of a teammate whose brother was killed in Vietnam and from Vietnam Veterans who resent the reminders of the war in Matt's Vietnamese features. Matt and his piano teacher (a vet who takes him to a veterans' support group) help with the healing of a vet who becomes Matt's baseball coach, and this new coach helps to heal the rift between Matt and his teammate.
The parallels between the Vietnam War and all of the current global conflicts would make this an excellent read aloud or shared reading for a middle school or high school literature or social studies classroom. For those of us who grew up during the Vietnam War and lived in it without really learning about it, this book is an important education.