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Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:


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 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.

About the Author

Jen Bryant has published poetry, biographies, picture books, and fiction for young readers, including The Trial, Pieces of Georgia, and Ringside, 1925. A graduate of Gettysburg College, she lives in Pennsylvania. To learn more about Jen, please visit

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Knopf Books for Young Readers
Bryant, Jennifer
Bryant, Jen
Family life
Single-parent families
General Juvenile Fiction
Children s-General
Mysteries & Detective Stories
Edition Description:
Library binding
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 4 up to 8
8.30x5.82x.94 in. .80 lbs.
Age Level:

Related Subjects

Kaleidoscope Eyes
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$ In Stock
Product details 272 pages Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers - English 9780375940484 Reviews:
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