Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes

by Jen Bryant

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375853654
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/12/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Jen Bryant has published poetry, biographies, picture books, and fiction for young readers, including The Trial, Pieces of Georgia, and Ringside, 1925. A graduate of Gettysburg College, she lives in Pennsylvania. To learn more about Jen, please visit www.jenbryant.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

I wake up every morning
to Janis Joplin.

My sister, Denise, has a life-size poster of Janis--
mouth open in a scream around the microphone,
arms raised, hair frizzed out wildly,
an anguished, contorted look on her face--
thumbtacked right above her desk,
which is directly across the hall from my bed
and one hundred percent dead ahead
in my direct line of sight.
Janis is the first thing I see when I return from sleep
and reenter reality.

In a normal house, the simple answer to this would be:
close the door. But I do not live
in a normal house. I live in a tumble-
down, three-story, clapboard Victorian
where the rooms get smaller as you climb the stairs,
mine being barely larger than a closet and having--
like all the other rooms on the third floor--
no door (Dad says the former owners, who went broke,
used them for firewood before they moved),
across the hall from my sister, who's nineteen
and who believes anyway
that walls and doors "interrupt the flow" of her karma,
and so of course this leaves me no choice
in the matter of Janis.

When I pointed out to Denise
that my future mental health was probably in jeopardy
because of it, she just sneered and said:
"Get over it, Lyza--you're already a Bradley,
so mental health
is out of the question for you anyway."
Whoever said "the baby of the family
gets all the sympathy"
was clearly not
the baby.

JUNE 1, 1966
It's been almost two years since that day,
when our family began to unravel
like a tightly wound ball of string
that some invisible tomcat
took to pawing and flicking across the floor,
pouncing upon it again and again,
so those strands just kept loosening
and breaking             apart
until all we had left was a bunch of frayed,
chewed_up bits
scattered all over the house.
Mom had left twice before,
after she and Dad had a fight
over money. She stayed away overnight,
but both times she came back, acting like
nothing had happened. This time, the three of us thought,
would be the same...it just might take
a little longer.
Days became weeks. I finished sixth grade.
Dad, who already taught math full_time
at Glassboro State, started to teach at night.
We almost never saw him.
Denise tore up her college applications,
got hired as a waitress at the Willowbank Diner,
started sneaking around with Harry Keating
and his hippie crowd.
Still, we hoped Mom would come back.
For the entire summer,
Dad left the porch light on
and the garage door unlocked every evening
around the same time
Mom used to come home
from her art_gallery job in Pleasantville.
I'd lie awake until real late,
wondering where she could be,
if she was OK, if she might be
hurt, lost, or sick.
Denise sent letters through Mom's best friend,
Mrs. Corman, the only one who knew
where Mom had gone.
Mom answered them at first, but she never
gave a return address. Then, for no reason,
her letters to Denise and to Mrs. Corman
Even so, I had hope.
Every evening, I set her place
at the dinner table and bought candy
on her birthday, just in case.
When September came, I started seventh grade.
I kept my report cards and vaccination records
in the family scrapbook
so that when she came back, she could pick up
mothering right where she'd left off.
Long after Dad and Denise
had made their peace
with the reality of our broken family, I still believed
Mom would come home.
I believed the way I had once believed
in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Then one day last year, I was
walking home from Willowbank Junior High
when I noticed the library flag
flying at half_mast,
so I asked
Mrs. Leinberger, our town librarian, why.
"Charley Prichett, Guy Smith, and Edward Cullinan
were killed in Vietnam," she said.
I knew them all
their families lived on our end of town.
Charley, Eddie, and Guy
had graduated from Willowbank High
with Denise.
Mrs. Leinberger put her hand
on my shoulder. "They're not coming back
to Willowbank, Lyza I'm sorry..."
Not coming back...Not coming back...

Her words thrummed against the inside
of my head
like the machine guns I'd seen and heard
on the evening news.
Not coming back...Not coming back...
Like the blades of choppers
lifting half_dead men
from the swamps and jungles,
the phrase sliced through any shred
of hope I had left.
That night, I threw the scrapbook
in the trash,
set the dinner table for three,
and gave Denise
a large heart_shaped box of chocolates,
which she took down to the record store
to share with Harry
and the rest of their hippie friends.

Some nights, before I go to sleep,
I look through the lens of the
one Mom gave me
for my tenth birthday, just to see how, when I
turn the tube slowly around,
every fractured pattern that bends and splits
into a million little pieces
always comes back together, to make a picture
more beautiful than the one before.

He's thirteen
like me.
He lives in a three_story clapboard Victorian
on Gary Street
like me.
He's an eighth grader
at Willowbank Junior High
like me.
He's in Mrs. Smithson's homeroom,
Mr. Bellamy's Earth Science,
and Mr. Hogan's Math
like me.
He roots for the Phillies
like me.
He's the younger of two kids
in his family (but his brother, Dixon, is
a LOT nicer than Denise)
like me.
You see, Malcolm and me,
we've been friends since we were little,
since the day I finally got tired of trying to tag along
with Denise and her girlfriends.
That afternoon, according to Dad, I looked out
the window and saw Malcolm playing in the street.
I went outside, told him my name, then rode
my tricycle down the block to his house,
where we played every outdoor kids' game
we could think of:
Cops and Robbers
Red Light, Green Light
Jump rope
Dodgeball             Hopscotch
until it was time for supper and my father
came to take me home.
"You'd never thrown a tantrum,
but that night you and Malcolm hid
under the Duprees' front porch,
where none of us could squeeze in
and reach you. You refused to come out unless we promised
you could play again the whole next day, just the same.
Of course we promised...and ever since,
you two have gotten along
like peas in a pod."

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2009:
"Readers will fall under the spell of the delicious plot."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, May 25, 2009:
“Sincere and well-paced, with the backdrop of a tumultuous period in history, the story is not easily forgotten.”

Customer Reviews

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Kaleidoscope Eyes 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Lyza's grandfather left her three carefully folded maps and an envelope that will take her and her two best friends on the adventure of a lifetime as they search for buried treasure. But even if the three thirteen-year-olds manage to decipher the clues and locate the treasure, how will they keep it secret from their parents and the rest of the town? Set during the Vietnam War, this novel allows the reader to learn about historical facts and figures of the time while enjoying the mystery and adventure of a hunt for pirate treasure. I absolutely loved KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, and though its structure threw me off a bit at first, I soon found myself reading along with no trouble. I enjoyed hunting treasure with Bryant's characters as they discovered the past, struggled through the present, and looked toward a bright future. The real treasure was the way these characters overcame obstacles and kept going in the face of the turmoil and confusion around them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has been pretty good so far but its definietly not 5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book if you love mysteries and adventure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a terrible book. I had to choose from 3 books to read for school, Peak, Kaleidoscope Eyes or Forge. I choose Kaleidoscope eyes because it looked better then the other 2. From the first page to the last page i hated my desision. So for all the kids who go to my school GO WITH A DIFFERENT BOOK!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its sort of confusing in the begining but other than that its good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I might not like this book due to the fact that I only see on wrriten review besides mine...... :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark_Angle More than 1 year ago
Not Bad. I read this book a few years ago so I'm a little fuzzy on the details but I do remember liking it. I was in the beginning of this pirate phase so I really interested. If you like this I really reccomend The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago