Jen Bryant Books ;
Kaleidoscope Eyes
written by Jen Bryant
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-375-84048-7
Yearling trade paperback, 2010
ISBN 978-0-440-42190-0
Will Lyza’s 1968 summer mystery lead to … pirate treasure?
When Lyza helps her dad clean out her late grandfather’s house, a mysterious surprise brightens the sad task. In Gramps’s dusty attic, Lyza discovers three maps, carefully folded and stacked, bound by a single rubber band. On top, an envelope says “For Lyza ONLY.” What could this possibly be? It takes the help of her two best friends, Malcolm and Carolann, to figure out that the maps reveal three possible spots in their own New Jersey town where Captain Kidd (the Captain Kidd, seventeenth-century pirate) may have buried a treasure. Can three thirteen-year-olds actually conduct a secret treasure hunt? And what will they find?
In a tale inspired by a true story of buried treasure, Jen Bryant weaves an emotional and suspenseful novel in poems, all set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War during a pivotal year in U.S. history.
Download this guide for use with Kaleidoscope Eyes.
Enjoy this interview with Jen by Shanetia Clark from Penn State U.
Honors and Recognition
Chicago Library's List of Best of the Best Books for Kids
International Reading Association Teachers' Choice Award 2010
Junior Library Guild selection
Maine Student Book Award Nominee 2010-2011
Nebraska Sower Award Nominee 2011
Nevada Young Readers' Award Nominee 2011
VOYA's Poetry Picks 2009
When 13-year-old Lyza cleans her grandfather’s attic and finds a bundle of papers marked “For Lyza Only,” she’s propelled into a modern-day search for pirates’ treasure. After weeks of digging—and suffering bruised wrists, blistered fingers and fatigue—Lyza and her two best friends make an amazing discovery and become local celebrities. Set in 1968, with the Vietnam War, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in the background, Bryant’s novel-in-verse effectively weaves Lyza’s narrative together with letters from Vietnam, Captain Kidd’s pirate’s log and an occasional poem that stands beautifully on its own. Lyza’s kaleidoscope, a birthday present from her mother, who has walked out on the family, connects readers with the Beatles’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” provides the volume’s title and offers a perfect metaphor for a girl learning to see her world in new ways. Readers will fall under the spell of the delicious plot and race ahead to see if Lyza and her friends find buried treasure. The solid bibliography offers good resources for researching pirates, Vietnam and the ’60s. A neat match with Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars (2007) and Michael Kaufman’s 1968 (2008). (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-14) (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Growing up in New Jersey during the Vietnam War, 13-year-old Lyza has some battles of her own (“Whoever said 'the baby of the family/ gets all the sympathy'/ was clearly not/ the baby”). When her mother walked out, “our family began to unravel/ like a tightly wound ball of string.” Then Lyza's grandfather dies, leaving her a box filled with cryptic maps and clues, which she learns relate to the pirate treasure of Capt. William Kidd. Lyza and her best friends Carolann and Malcolm get to work locating—and then hiding—the treasure. Lyza's thoughtful narration in verse gives Bryant's (Ringside 1925) novel a strong sense of setting and reflects the teenager's conflicting emotions about adulthood: “I had to decide/ to stay safe in the harbor, like my father,/ or to push out to sea, like Gramps.” Her observations also betray an engaging sense of humor (Denise, her older sister, “has no interest in anything/ she can't smoke, wear, or sing”). Sincere and well-paced, with the backdrop of a tumultuous period in history, the story is not easily forgotten. Ages 9–13. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
In the summer of 1968, the town of Willowbank, New Jersey, is losing loved ones to the war in Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Lyza is counting the days until school ends so she will not have to conform to the rules of segregation that separate her from her best friend, Malcolm. When Lyza's grandfather dies suddenly of heart failure, her family has the chore of cleaning out his house. In the dusty attic, Lyza discovers a folder labeled with her name and containing three maps that may lead to a lost treasure buried somewhere in Willowbank. With the help of Malcolm and Carolann, Lyza plots secret missions and spends sleepless nights digging in the grueling summer heat in hopes of finding the pirate's treasure. When Lyza's father becomes suspicious of her behavior, keeping their activities quiet becomes increasingly difficult. With creative detective work and a few white lies, Lyza and her friends eventually hit pay dirt and local fame. Bryant weaves an emotional novel in poems based on a true story of buried treasure. Tensions among families are drawn with heart-wrenching prose, and her depiction of segregation is flawless. Bryant uses simplistic verses that are just right, including lyrics from rock songs of the time, to convey the seriousness of the war and people's views on equality among blacks and whites. The characters are witty and well developed, with readers wanting to find out what happens next on Lyza's escapades in this well-written novel that will be an absorbing read especially for reluctant readers. Laura Panter, VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates)
Kaleidoscope Eyes
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