In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by ann e. burg and INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai

I had to post these two books together.  They are both about Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War.   (You know I love a good war story.)  They are both told in verse.  And they are both REALLY good. 

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by ann e. burg

copyright date: April 2009
primarily marketed for: grades 6-8

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award Nominee 2012

Tells the story of a 12 year-old-boy whose mother is Vietnamese and father is an American soldier that never returns.  When life becomes too dangerous in Vietnam, Matt’s mother seizes the opportunity to send him to America as soon as she is given the chance.  Matt is adopted by a loving couple, but that doesn’t mean the memories of a war-torn Vietnam and the family he left behind don’t haunt him.

Although it is not likely all the experiences would happen to the same kid, it sure makes for a moving story.  Matt not only battles his past, but he also struggles with bullies on his baseball team and the demons of wounded Vietnam War veterans who ultimately join him on a journey towards healing.

This is a book with lots of heavy ideas packed in very few words.  Be prepared to tear up.


copyright date: 2011
primarily marketed for: grades 4-8

National Book Award Winner

I read this one soon after finishing All the Broken Pieces.  Because Matt’s experience in Vietnam was primarily influenced by full-blown war, he did not have many memories of his culture or previous way of life before the influence of war.  So, I was surprised that this book started by painting a moment representative of Vietnamese culture. 

This book differs from All the Broken Pieces in that it is told from the point of view of a girl, the family comes to America together, and the author largely wrote from her own experience.  However, both stories feature a missing dad and bullies. 

Reading Inside Out & Back Again deepened my understanding of the effects war has on individual lives.  It is a beautifully told story with no easy resolutions. 


  1. The first sounds good, & poignant as you said. I've read the second & loved it. It's a good look into the experiences of those who have to leave their beloved homes, even though it means safety. Thanks!

  2. I loved Inside Out & Back Again. My 12-year-old daughter and I have decided it will be our next pick for our mother-daughter book club. I think we are also going to read Shaun Tan's The Arrival alongside it.