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Friday, July 2, 2010

Kaleidoscope Eyes, written by Jen Bryant. Random House, 2009.$17.99 ages 12 and up

"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."

In KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, a novel in verse set in 1968 we meet Lyza Bradley, a thirteen-year-old girl and her best friends Malcolm Dupree and Carolann Mott. Lyza's mother is long gone, leaving her children in the care of a father who buries himself in his teaching. Her annoying older sister, and her two friends are the ones that Lyza can count on in times of trouble.

At the heart of the story is a treasure hunt, initiated when Lyza finds a set of maps that have been left to her by her much loved grandfather at his death. Gramps was a navigator for the navy and has taught his beloved granddaughter many of the skills that stood him in good stead at his job. He also has passed along his love of adventure. This adventure is 'puzzling' to say the least and spawns a search for pirate treasure, lost for centuries.

The search for treasure plays second fiddle to the gravestones that mark the resting places of fallen soldiers from the Vietnam conflict, returning disabled servicemen and Malcolm's brother who is somewhere in the Vietnamese jungle, struggling to stay alive.

In a series of poems, Lyza is able to convey the many feelings that burden her heart. She is angry with her mother for leaving, at her father for being almost as absent as her mother, and her sister Denise for driving her crazy with her hippie lifestyle, her lack of ambition and her boyfriend Harry. Luckily she has stalwart and loyal friends for support as she deals with the many issues that confront her.

Lyza's story is full of suspense and intrigue, very personal and life-changing. It is a page-turner and adds to my growing admiration for this accomplished and thoughtful writer. I will continue to look forward to each new book with great anticipation.

And the final thought I leave to Lyza and her Gramps:

"I remember how Gramps used to say:
"Lyza, there's two sides to a coin, two sides to a ship,
and two sides to every story,"
and though I never quite understood how
taht could be true for a family, I see now
that he was absolutely right."

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