Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras and and Susan Ouriou

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Gingras, Charlotte and and Susan Ouriou. Pieces of Me. Kids Can Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1554532421 144 pp. $8.95

*****

The narrative of this lovely, lyrical novel unfolds in short vignettes, like a delicate bird skimming just over the water, dipping now and then to leave deepening ripples on the surface.

Fifteen-year-old Mirabelle is like a wounded young bird who can’t break loose from the nest. Abandoned by her father who couldn’t cope with her mentally ill mother, Mira’s loneliness and desire to escape are palpable from the opening pages, garnering immediate empathy from the reader, who will feel her anguish and silently cheer when Mira finally begins to test her wings. Her tentative friendship with Cath, the new girl in her art class, coaxes Mira from her shell. Wearing a color other than black, eating French fries after school in a café, and being acknowledged as a top student in art class are rich triumphs.

Just when things are looking up, Cath unwittingly betrays Mira. In quick succession, Mira is devastated by three males in her life. Her sensitive art teacher (nicknamed “the birdman” by Mira because he rehabilitates birds) is the one who sees how fragile Mira is and recommends counseling. Paule, the blind but insightful school therapist, helps Mira begin to fit together the shattered pieces of herself.

Literary allusions and symbolism abound. Librarians will love Mira, because she is a reader and library user. Teen girls will identify with Mira’s struggle to form her identity, conflicts with her mother, and her curiosity about her budding sexuality.

Originally published in French, there seems to be nothing lost in translation. The English translation is all sparse, elegant prose and a definite contender for the Batchelder Award.

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