This past week I finished a great piece of children’s literature titled, “All the Broken Pieces”. As I’m a reading tutor for an elementary school, I was checking this book out to see how well my students might do with it. Not only is the reading elegant, but it also covers a wide variety of topics and points that many young readers can connect to.
The main character, Matt, is a 12 year-old boy who was adopted from Vietnam. He was born in the middle of the Vietnam War to a poverty stricken mother and an American soldier father. By the time he is brought to the United States by American soldiers, he has seen more than terror than anyone he knows. At school in the United States with his new adoptive family, Matt faces bullying from his classmates. Amidst all his school troubles, he also plays baseball, where he faces constant pressure as well as animosity from his teammates. In order to come to terms with his fears and troubles facing him in his new American life he must first come to terms with what happened to him in Vietnam. This is a wonderful story told through verse poetry making it accessible to many levels of readers.
For parents and educators: If you do decide to read this book with your children/students it’s important to build significant background knowledge. There is a lot of talk about the stigma and animosity against soldiers who fought in Vietnam but there’s not a lot of historical information to back it up. In order for children to get the most of this book I would recommend helping them look up a few things about the Vietnam War, what it meant for the people of Vietnam, where Vietnam is and how the American people reacted to it.
Questions to keep in mind while reading this novel:
1. How does Matt feel about his real father? How would you feel if you were in Matt’s shoes?
2. It seems that everyone Matt meets is affected by the war. How are his American parents affected? How about his teammates?
3. Why does Matt enjoy going to the Vietnam Veteran meetings even though he never says anything?
4. How do Matt and Rob finally connect at the end? Do you think they have a new respect for each other?
5. How does Matt come to terms with his past?