Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 22, 2010

What I’m Reading: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

The title and the cover photo of an unraveling baseball suggest this will be a sad novel in verse, and it is, but beautifully written, compelling, and with enough traces of hope and healing to pull you through some harrowing memories. Set during the era when the U.S. was engaged in the Vietnam war, we move inside the mind of a boy who left Asia for America after his mother decided his best chance for safety was away from the war. Loving adoptive parents welcome him, but of course he feels torn. The Saturday classes they bring him to are about Vietnamese stories and traditions he never experienced growing up always in a country at war. They don’t connect him to his past. The disciplines of music and baseball, where he finds both prejudice and understanding on the team, help him heal more. Of course feeling safe is a slow process, but helping others who suffer helps him, and eventually he speaks of some of what he misses: “White cabbages grew/as big as pumpkins./And before a storm,/the purple-blue of the/sky was the same/ purple-blue as my/mom’s favorite shawl.” Speech and memory are hard. But we see Matt Pin is on his way.

This novel in verse haunted me as the past haunts the main character. All the Broken Pieces is about the divided life of someone separated from his beloved mother and a father he never knew, but anyone with an interest in how the past shapes the present may treasure this small book.

For more celebrations of poems on a Friday, and I’m guaranteeing a smile, go to When I stopped in this morning there was tea, honey toast, a bright bouquet of sunflowers if you followed the link to Mary Lee, and Rilke: a good way to start a day.



  1. Oh, my goodness do I want to read this!!! Thank you…

  2. I grabbed this one at the library this week. Looking forward to reading it.

  3. Thanks, Liz. I think you will be touched by this small book with an impact.

  4. Cool, Tracy! It’s fun to be almost reading the same thing at the same time!

  5. I was so hoping this story would get a little bit of love from the ALA. Alas. I’ve read it three times and it never fails to move me….

  6. I can feel the longing in that poem from here. I’ll need to track this one down. Thanks for flagging it, Jeannine!

  7. This is one of my favorite books of 2009!

  8. That’s a short, beautiful, perfect recommendation. Thank you.

  9. Thank you, Amy. Yes, loneliness and longing.

  10. This is one of my favorites, too. Thank you for stopping by, Mary Lee, and for the lovely sunflower mentioned — and of course the joyous poem, too!

  11. Thanks for the recommendation, Jeannine. I’m going to request this one from my library, as I am on the prowl for new novels in verse.

  12. Mary, I think this book will really touch. And while you’re on the prowl and requesting, may I recommend Blue Plate Special by my friend Michelle Kwasney? It’s the story of three girls told in different voices, with one using a free verse form. So not exactly a verse novel, but an intriguing twist and beautifully told. If you click on my sidebar to what I’m reading and scroll down a few to Oct. 5 you can read a bit about it (sorry, I’m not sure how to do the link). It’s a very emotionally powerful book, too.
    And I hope you’ll report on any verse novel treasures you uncover!

  13. At ALA, Alex touched the cover of this book and said, “Isn’t this cover amazing? It makes me want to read it . . .”

  14. Yes, I’m with Alex. The color, the close up, the grit on the ball make you want to pick it up, and I think the image really accurately reflects what’s inside without being literal.

  15. It’s funny — I was searching for more information on “All the Broken Pieces” this morning (I was intrigued by the cover) and your review was among the first four search items that came up. Thank you for this! I do want to read this one. 🙂

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