Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • Written by Jen Bryant
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780440421900
  • Our Price: $6.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Kaleidoscope Eyes

Buy now from Random House

  • Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • Written by Jen Bryant
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375853654
  • Our Price: $6.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

Written by Jen BryantAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jen Bryant


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: May 12, 2009
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-375-85365-4
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
Kaleidoscope Eyes Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • Email this page - Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • Print this page - Kaleidoscope Eyes


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.

From the Hardcover edition.


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.
Jen Bryant

About Jen Bryant

Jen Bryant - Kaleidoscope Eyes

Photo © Amy Dragoo for Daily Local News

1. You’ve written on a wide variety of topics. Where do you get your ideas?

Honestly, ideas are everywhere: in books I read, in people I talk to, in my own household and neighborhood. The challenge is to capture them and mold them into a story that will both entertain and inform my readers. I don’t have a standard method of choosing which ideas I will turn into books . . . it’s more like the ideas choose me! For example, my first novel, The Trial, began as I was writing a series of poems (which I intended to send to magazines) about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case. Before I knew it, I had put everything else aside and was really delving into the facts and myths about the investigation and the trial. A brief visit back to my hometown of Flemington, New Jersey, where the 1935 trial took place, convinced me that I should try and tell the whole story in a verse novel.

2. You wrote more than a dozen biographies before turning to fiction. How did that experience affect your later writings?

I’ve always been fascinated with real events and real people–and I find them frequently more interesting and more bizarre than anything I could ever make up. I also love to research–and by that I mean I love to hunt for interesting and little-known facts. The research process is never boring! I travel to museums, archives, and small towns where significant events took place (such as the Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tennessee); I go to plays and watch movies; I interview famous people and witnesses to history; I read historical documents, books, magazines, and web pages.

3. Your third novel, Pieces of Georgia, is a 13-year old girl’s journal about her dead mother, her still-grieving father, her athletic best friend, and her own desire to become an artist. How did you create this character–and why did you have her live on a horse farm?

Many aspect of my own life came crashing together in that book. When I was a teenager, I spent many Saturdays on a horse farm in central New Jersey, and I used those memories to create the setting for Pieces of Georgia. I also grew up next to a funeral home (my father and grandfather were undertakers), so I had a lot of opportunity to observe how grief and loss affect different people. I participated in three sports in high school, but still had a lot of free time to explore other interests. Now, however, sports have become year-round and hyper-competitive and so I created Georgia’s friend Tiffany to represent the difficulties that teens today must deal with if they’re into sports. Lastly, I didn’t go to school for writing, so I had to engage in a lot of trial-and-error to find my own style and voice. In Pieces of Georgia, that’s exactly how Georgia goes about learning how to draw.

4. Tell us about your recent novel Kaleidoscope Eyes.

The main plot involves three friends who stumble onto a set of maps they suspect may lead them to one of the buried treasures of the notorious pirate Captain Kidd. (I started this book long before the recent events involving modern pirates starting appearing in the news!) The story takes place in 1968, in a small town in southern New Jersey. The entire ‘60s decade was turbulent, but that year was especially so: we had the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the peak of the Vietnam War, and hundreds of antiwar protests and sit-ins. There were huge rock concerts and drug use was rampant. Civil rights and women’s rights were gaining momentum, but there remained many parts of society who were violently opposed to both. So–in a way, it’s a 17th-century pirate tale embedded in a 1960’s rock ’n’ roll era story. It was a lot of fun to research, and hopefully even more fun to read!


Where were you born?

Easton, Pennsylvania . . . but I only lived there for a few weeks. I spent most of my growing up years in Flemington, New Jersey.

Where did you go to college? What did you study?

I went to Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I majored in French and minored in German and Secondary Education. Jerry Spinelli–who is a good friend and one of my favorite authors–went there, too.

Where do you live now and who’s in your family?

I live in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, with my husband, Neil; my daughter, Leigh; and our energetic springer spaniel, Sam.

What other jobs have you had besides being a writer?

I’ve been a waitress, a bank teller, a cross-country coach, a high school teacher, a college professor, member of a road crew, retail clerk, picture framer, and probably a few others I’m forgetting!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I visit our local YMCA almost daily to bike, lift weights, do aerobics or swim–and also to see people! (Writing is very still and very solitary.) At home, I enjoy wandering around our yard to fill the bird feeders, play with our dog, and occasionally do a little gardening. I also love to read good poetry, fiction, and biographies and to watch movies with my family. When I travel, I enjoy visiting museums–especially the smaller and more unusual ones. The Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore are two of my favorites. I am also a HUUUUGE Philadelphia Phillies fan and watch their games whenever I can!


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.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: