Reviews for All the Broken Pieces

Booklist Reviews 2009 February #2
*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. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3
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." Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 February #2
Matt Pin's story, told in first-person verse, opens with the evacuation of refugees near the end of the Vietnam War. Afterward Matt, an Amerasian, is adopted by a loving American family. Two years later, he remains haunted by a past in which his soldier father abandoned him, his mother gave him up and his brother was maimed before his eyes. He suffers deeply from prejudice when he tries out for the school baseball team and from his misunderstanding of both his biological and adoptive families' motives. Through the efforts of two veterans, Matt begins to understand that his mother gave him away because she loved him, not because he was culpable in the crippling of his brother. In recognizing the analogous suffering endured by others touched by the war, Matt begins to resolve the conflicts of his spirit. Graceful symmetries between brother and brother, father and son, past and present, guilt and forgiveness shed light on the era and the individual. The verse form carries highly charged emotions and heavy content with elegiac simplicity. A memorable debut. (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 April #2

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 May

Gr 6-8--In 1977, 12-year-old Matt Pin lives a fractured life. He is the son of a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier and was airlifted to safety from the war zone. Adopted by a caring American couple, he has vivid and horrific memories of the war and worries about the fates of his mother and badly injured little brother. Matt's adoptive family adores him, and he is the star pitcher for his middle school baseball team, but there are those who see his face and blame him for the deaths of the young men they lost in the war. The fractured theme runs the course of this short novel in verse: Matt's family, the bodies and hearts of the Vietnam vets, the country that is "only a pocketful of broken pieces" that Matt carries inside him. Ultimately, everything broken is revealed as nonetheless valuable. While most of the selections read less like poems and more like simple prose, the story is a lovely, moving one. Use this in a history class or paired with Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave (Feiwel & Friends, 2007).--Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

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