Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Among the hardships, disappointments, and losses, it's the adventure of it all that has gotten me up each morning."

It's summer and Lyza has no idea the adventure that lies ahead of her. It's 1968, the Vietnam War has captured the attention of the nation, and Lyza's mother has left the family. Instead of being free to wander and enjoy the summer, Lyza's father decides that she must wash dishes at the local diner while her father teaches courses at the local university. Lyza's unique friendships with her neighbors Malcolm and Carolann make them perfect partners for sneaking off while her father is working. Her friends also provide a window to look at race relations in the late '60s, as Malcolm is African American and his brother is drafted, sending letters home throughout the summer explaining the differences between current society and the military attitude about race, as well as sharing what it's like to be at war.

Lyza and her grandfather have always shared a love of adventure. From the time she was little, he would show her maps and tell her about his travels. When he passes away, she discovers an envelope that says, "FOR LYZA ONLY." She has to decide if she should share the contents of the envelope and, if so, who will understand? Will she be able to figure out the clues her grandfather left behind? Even if she can discover the secret, will she have enough time to complete the adventure?

Told in verse, this is a story of a family figuring out how to change when circumstances demand new ways. I especially loved the relationship between Lyza and her grandfather. I lived with my grandparents twice (once as a teenager and once as an adult), so I got to enjoy a great relationship with my grandfather. Reading about Lyza's adventures reminded me of how much I miss him--and what a wonderful influence he was in my life.

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant was published in 2009.

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