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All the Broken Pieces

Tough but touching free verse book about war's scars.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This book offers a powerful glimpse into the many different impacts of war on civilians and soldiers alike and a snapshot of a time period that changed the United States forever. Parents or teachers may need to provide some context about the Vietnam war, since none is provided here.

Positive messages

Matt faces prejudice and discrimination, and adults around him deal with it in various ways; a veteran coach helps the team reach an acceptance. Eventually Matt finds safety and the understanding that loving his new family doesn't mean forgetting his first family.  

Positive role models

Matt's adoptive parents are only two of the many strong adults who help Matt's middle school baseball team learn acceptance. Matt himself is a traumatized but resilient 12-year-old who will inspire many readers.


Matt describes the experience of war that he remembers and the night that his 3-year-old brother was hit by a bomb. Veterans share some stories of their service years during the war. Matt is beaten up by teammates. A bully tells him repeatedly that his brother -- a soldier in Vietnam -- died because of Matt. 

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Matt's teammates call him Frogface.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this powerful first-person story reveals the nearly universal fears of adoptees as well as the horrors of war experienced by a child. Vietnamese Matt has to deal with the prejudice of Americans while the war is still raging -- and memories of bombings and other traumas are fresh. A subplot deals with the difficulties that many veterans face when returning home at a time when post-traumatic stress disorder wasn't yet recognized. Told in free verse, this book can be a good companion to students studying the Vietnam war, though parents may need to provide some context -- and guidance -- for readers at the younger end of the spectrum.

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Matt has lived in the United STates for two years when his nightmares and fears finally catch up with him. He can't stop wondering why his Vietnamese mother gave him away for adoption when he was 10, what happened to the little brother she kept with her, why his American father never returned for them, and when his American parents will send him back. A boy on his baseball team hates him because his own brother was killed in in the conflict. His piano teacher also served as a soldier in Vietnam and won't talk about it. Then a trip to a veteran's group shows Matt more sides of the war than he knew before, and a new coach forces his teammates to work together. In one summer, Matt lives through a painful season and finally finds safety and the understanding that loving his new family doesn't mean forgetting his first family. He also learns that even adults need help with forgiveness.

Is it any good?


Written in free verse, the abbreviated chapters of ALL THE BROKEN PIECES make the intense subject matter a little easier to digest without diluting its powerful, unforgettable story. Younger readers may need some context -- and may have trouble tracking the number of characters here -- but this is ultimately a powerful book that depicts the horrors of war and the redemptive powers of a family's love, whether adoptive or biological. It also deals with the common fears that adopted children have about being rejected by their new families and the questions about their old one.  

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what kids learn today about the Vietnam war. What was the war about? 

  • Why is it important to read historical books? What can we learn from the past? Even though Matt's story happened awhile ago, what can we learn from it? 

Book details

Author:Ann E. Burg
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:April 1, 2009
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):11

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Educator Written bycarvteach November 16, 2010

Touching novel in free verse

As a boy deals with his new life in America he is also trying to reconcile his past, especially separation from his mother and younger brother. Set at the end of the Vietnam War this book, written in free verse, confrontsthe prejudism he now faces from teammates who blame him for hurts the Vietnam War caused them, and the feelings of injured Vietnam soldiers he visits.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written byBUCKBUCK August 26, 2013

Good for middle schoolers and up

This is a really good book. Some people may find it hard to follow and understand but I loved it when we read it in 7th grade. It is a unique book because it is written in a different way(1st person free verse) about a topic that is solemnly discussed(the aftermath of Vietnam War for U.S. veterans.) This book could add a new perspective to Vietnam War studies.
Educator Written byccdsmiddle September 24, 2010

Historical novel in free verse

Fantastic story of an adopted boy from Vietnam who had to leave his family behind to survive. His guilt and sadness are quickly in contrast with his love of playing baseball. Facing the prejudice of a fellow team member and struggling with where he belongs are the most compelling threads of this book. Great for reluctant readers.
What other families should know
Educational value