Friday, July 24, 2009

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

Matt Pin had a Vietnamese mother and an American soldier father. He was airlifted out of Vietnam at age 10, looking more like a six-year-old. Two years later, now in Grade 7 and living with loving American parents who have adopted him, Matt still has nightmares. He also deals with racism at school, where at least one student believes it is Matt's fault that his older brother was killed in Vietnam. Matt's story intersects with the lives of vets who are also having difficulties dealing with the war upon their return home.

Matt is the star pitcher on his school baseball team and has also begun taking piano lessons. Music soothes him like nothing else can. The novel is told in free verse format with five small lines underneath each poem. It took a little while for me to realize that this stylish convention represented a musical staff. The image of a bass clef is also repeated through the story and I took it to represent the Vietnam war and how it maintains a steady presence, even when it isn't carrying the melody.

A touching story with a contemporary feel, despite being set in the 1970s. Mixed heritage readers will likely be particularly interested, as will children who know people currently serving in the armed forces overseas. Grades 4-7.

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