Cover image for All the broken pieces : a novel in verse
All the broken pieces : a novel in verse
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2009.
Physical Description:
218 p. ; 21 cm.
Reading Level:
HL 680 L Lexile
Two years after being airlifted out of Vietnam in 1975, Matt Pin is haunted by the terrible secret he left behind and, now, in a loving adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events forces him to confront his past.


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Two years after being airlifted out of war-tornVietnam, Matt Pin is haunted: by bombs that fell likedead crows, by smoke and death, by the brother--andthe terrible secret--he left behind. Now in a lovingadoptive home in the United States, over the courseof a baseball season, a series of profound eventsforces him to confront his past, and slowly, sometimespainfully, heal.By turns harrowing, dreamlike, sad, and triumphant,this searing novel in verse reveals an unforgettableand little-seen perspective on the Vietnam War andits survivors.

Author Notes

Ann Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with her family.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Using spare free verse, first-time novelist Burg (Pirate Pickle and the White Balloon) beautifully evokes the emotions of a Vietnamese adoptee as he struggles to come to terms with his past. Although he loves his American parents and new little brother, Matt misses the family he left behind two years ago, in 1975, when he was airlifted out of Vietnam. He feels guilty for leaving behind his toddler brother, who was mutilated by a bomb, and yearns for his birth mother, who pushed him "through screaming madness/ and choking dust" into the arms of soldiers. ("My parents say they love me./ He says/ I'll always be his MVP./ She says./ I'm safe, I'm home./ But what about my mother in Vietnam?") Matt's baseball coach and Vietnam vet piano teacher help ease his pain, but it is the patience and unconditional love of his new parents, gently emerging throughout the story, that proves the strongest healing force. The war-torn Vietnamese village that appears in Matt's recurring nightmares sharply contrasts with the haven he has in America. Burg presents lasting images of both. Ages 11-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) When Saigon fell, a couple of years before the start of this affecting verse novel, war refugee Matt was airlifted out of Vietnam; now he has been adopted by an American couple. The seventh-grader has two passions-piano and baseball-and one secret: he still feels responsible for the horrific injuries his little brother sustained in Vietnam on the day Matt didn't watch him closely enough. Matt is a child of war, and those painful memories are adeptly captured by the fleeting but powerful images of Burg's free verse: "We did not talk about / the American War, / how tanks lumbered / in the roads / like drunken elephants, / and bombs fell / from the sky / like dead crows." While Matt has made rapid strides in assimilating into American culture, there are some bumps in the road. First, when he becomes the star pitcher on his baseball team, some of his teammates resent him and respond with racist behavior. Second, his piano teacher introduces him to a support group of Vietnam veterans, but Matt initially can't get beyond his guilt enough to join in. Both experiences eventually allow him to work through his past and understand that remembering is not only healing but can open the door to hope: "His name is Huu Hein. / He followed me everywhere. / He follows me still, / and one day, / we're going to find him." From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* 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. Add this to the Booklist read-alike column Children at War.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2009 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8-Sensitively read by Tobias Christian Wong, Ann E. Burg's historical fiction in verse (Scholastic, 2009) illuminates a variety of notorious issues of the Vietnam War. Matt, a Vietnamese boy abandoned by his American soldier father, is relinquished by his desperate mother, hoping that he might have a chance for a healthy, happy life in the United States. Matt has experienced the horrors of war and has witnessed the land mine maiming of his three-year-old brother. He is adopted by a compassionate and well-intentioned American physician and his wife. The novel focuses on Matt's experience in seventh grade where he is bullied, ridiculed, and blamed for the death of American soldiers. He becomes the ultimate scapegoat for classmates echoing the feelings of their elders. The boy feels unwanted by everyone, including his loving adoptive parents. Even his talent for baseball pitching can't improve his self-esteem. Jeff, a Vietnam medic veteran who works with Matt's father, becomes a catalyst to help avert a crisis. With the cooperation of the school baseball coach and a disabled veteran, Matt and those scared by the war reach a healing point at the story's satisfying resolution. Wong's voice was well-chosen for Burg's passionate free verse, echoing the pain and caring of the characters. Educators will find this audiobook useful for sparking class discussions.-Jennifer Ward, Albany Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.