Saturday, June 6, 2009

48HBC: Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant. (Grades 5-8.)

It's the summer of 1968 and Lyza has realized that her mother, who left two years ago, is never coming home. Her personal tragedies pale in comparison, though, to the families who have lost sons and brothers to the Vietnam War. In the midst of all this, Lyza's grandfather dies and leaves behind a mystery for her to solve. It's an honest-to-goodness treasure hunt and Lyza, along with her best friends Malcolm and Carolann, will spend the summer of 1968 searching. But even if they find the treasure, it won't bring Lyza's mother back or protect family members from the devastating war.

I was excited to read this one because I so enjoyed Jen Bryant's previous novel in verse, Ringside 1925. In Kaleidoscope Eyes Ms. Bryant's created a lush portrayal of small-town New Jersey in 1968. It's a vibrant time, a time of confusion and rebellion and passion and fear, and I think that really comes across in the book. Quotes from songs of the time (protest and otherwise) add to the scenery.

But I have mixed feelings about novels in verse and this one didn't work so well for me. I enjoyed the parts of the story that were longer prose (for example, letters sent home from Vietnam) more than the actual poems. I enjoyed the characters, for the most part, and the setting, but I just feel like I would have enjoyed the story more if it had been prose.

That said, it's part adventure and part coming-of-age and a richly detailed portrayal of the 1960s. I'd hand it to any kid interested in that tumultuous time period.

Oh, and I do have to mention the author's note, which provided information about towns and places mentioned in the book as well as Janis Joplin, Captain Kidd, and others. It made my heart skip with glee. :)

Time spent reading/blogging: 2 hours
Books read: 1
Pages read: 263