-- Publishers Weekly, 4/13/2009
All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-545-08092-7
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.)
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis. Dial, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3321-3
Tarshis proves she “gets” adolescent female friendships (not to mention seventh grade) in this funny and empathetic follow-up to Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. For the first time, the intensely analytical Emma-Jean has friends among her peers (as she refers to them) and, like them, she is preoccupied with the girl-invite Spring Fling. Emma-Jean considers asking basketball star Will, though they have little in common—he's been kind to her and causes a “fluttering of her heart.” But she ends up sorting out the dance-related woes of fragile Colleen (whose point of view is explored in certain chapters). Fans of the first book will be pleased that the deadpan narration (“as a single cell can reveal the DNA code of an entire organism, the look in Kaitlin's eyes told Emma-Jean everything she needed to know”) and Emma-Jean's observations are as amusing as ever. (“Adolescent males engage in conspicuous displays to attract the attention of females,” is her explanation of cafeteria boisterousness.) Her blossoming appreciation for emotions that logic can't explain, sympathetic supporting characters and an uplifting finale will warm hearts. Ages 10–14. (May)
Congratulations to these authors!