Kaleidoscope Eyes


Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 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)

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 2009
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.

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
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. Reviewer: Laura Panter

A terrific review on Teen Reads Too!

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