More than anything, fifth grader Weezie wants to please her mother. She takes care of her younger brother and sister, she cooks and cleans, picks flowers for the table, and does everything she can to make her mother’s life better. Unfortunately, her mother can’t seem to see Weezie’s efforts; all she can see are her mistakes. It seems that Weezie looks too much like her father for her mother to ever trust or love her.
Other people can see Weezie’s good qualities. A neighbor assures her that she’s a good girl. She makes a friend, Louella, at school who doesn’t seem to see Weezie’s poverty or disadvantages, and the art teacher sees value in her sketches.
Weezie’s mother refuses to discuss her father, and gets angry anytime she asks. Then Weezie finds a picture of her father. She decides to find her father, because how can he be worse than her mother? And maybe, just maybe, he might love her. Weezie’s search is aided by the people around her who care about her, and help her form a picture of who she is out of the broken pieces of her life.
Weezie’s courage astounds me. My ego seems so fragile compared to hers. Every time she gets knocked down, she gets back up again. She makes a way for herself despite every obstacle. She makes herself worthy of love, even if she isn’t receiving it. I found so much to admire about Van Leeuwen’s heroine, and wanted to take her under my wing and care for her.
The Missing Pieces of Me is discouraging and heartbreaking, but triumphant, too. It has valuable insights for children who are being told that they aren’t good, or aren’t good enough. Children may see themselves in Weezie as she admits her shortcomings (if only to herself) and strives to do better even when her efforts aren’t rewarded. She is definitely a heroine worth rooting for. Hand this book to children who like rooting for the underdog.