13 year-old Lyza lives in New Jersey in 1968 with her Dad and her hippie sister. Lyza’s mother has abandoned the family and they are trying to keep it together with just the three of them. As Lyza says about the time since her mom left, “our family began to unravel/like a tightly wound ball of string.” This book is written as a series of poems that make Lyza’s experiences seem even more real. It’s kind of like reading her diary or listening in on her thoughts.
Lyza’s grandfather’s death is another emotional blow for a family already on the edge. While cleaning out his house, Lyza discovers something curious, an envelope labeled, “for Lyza only.” In the envelope are old maps and clues that may lead to the pirate treasure of Capt. Kidd – a treasure that might be buried somewhere in Lyza’s hometown.
Lyza recruits her best friends Malcolm and Carolann to help her understand the clues and old maps. The kids operate in secret, doing their research by day and sneaking out at night to do their digging.
For Lyza, there are some mysteries she can’t solve by herself, like the reason her mother left. Other mysteries, like the whereabouts of Captain Kidd’s treasure, she just might be able to unravel with the help of a few good friends.
This story is set during the Vietnam war. Lyza has a lot of loss around her. Her mom has left, her Grandpa dies and boys from her town are dying in the war. All of this could make a person sink into despair, but instead, Lyza chooses to be alive. She chooses to grab the adventure that is handed to her. I really liked that about her. Life is unpredictable and sometimes very hard. But it IS life and life has all kinds of wonderful things and good surprises in it too. You can’t really have one without the other. I liked reading about a girl who is learning how to handle both. Author: Jen Bryant
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|all the broken pieces is the story of a boy from Vietnam who survived the war and is learning to accept life as it comes. If you liked the treasure hunt part of Kaleidoscope Eyes, try the next three.
“This is a very good or I mean a very interesting book. It talks about a guy that lived in an orphanage, until one day the Amos’s adopted him. Author: Christopher Paul Curtis.” Reviewed by: Katherine
Bud’s life with the Amos’s is tough and he eventually decides to run away. Bud has some clues about who he thinks his father is and is determined to find him. This book won the The Newbery Medal AND the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Another really excellent book by Christopher Paul Curtis is Elijah of Buxton. Read the blog post about that one.
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- Read Chapter One from Elijah of Buxton
- Listen to an Exerpt of Elijah of Buxton
- Watch a video interview with Christopher Paul Curtis
Eff and her family live in the American frontier during pioneer times. But this isn’t your regular frontier story – in this story the pioneers have magical skills! What Columbus discovered in the New World is a dangerous place where dragons and mammoths and bears live. (As if grizzly bears aren’t bad enough, throw in some prehistoric creatures and some magical beasts!) The settlers have used their magic to set up a magical barrier – an invisible force field – to keep the dangerous animals away from their settlements.
Eff’s twin brother Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son. In their magical world being a seventh son is good – it means powerful magic. Eff is a thirteenth child. Some people think thirteenth children are bad luck. Even some of Eff’s relatives believe that Eff is cursed and will bring bad luck to everyone around her. Eff believes it too until the year everything changes.
This is a really original story set in an unlikely place. I think we are all used to reading magical stories set in the Middle Ages with knights and castles, but this time Patricia Wrede has done something really different. I liked that about this book. I also liked Eff. If lots of people around you were telling you you were bad luck…it would be hard not to believe them, wouldn’t it? I liked watching Eff fight for belief in herself. I can’t wait for book two. Author: Patricia Wrede Series: Frontier Magic (This is the first one – more will follow.)
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It’s 1899. Calpurnia is 11 years old and lives in Texas with her six (six!) brothers – three older and three younger. On her report card, Calpurnia gets an “acceptable” grade for “Posture” and an “unsatisfactory” grade for “Use of Hankie and Thimble”. Her Mother is not pleased! Can you imagine having “Use of a Hankie” as a school subject? (A hankie is a square piece of cloth they used in the old days to wipe their eyes or nose – no kleenex back then.)
Calpurnia isn’t the least bit interested in what is known as “woman’s work.” She doesn’t want to cook and sew and knit – she wants to run and swim and explore everything that lives in the woods and river near her house. She likes to study bugs. The dirtier Calpurnia gets, the happier she is.
After observing some curious grasshoppers in her yard, Calpurnia has some questions. Why are some of the grasshoppers large, yellow and slow, and some of the grasshoppers small, green and quick? And why is it that the smaller quick ones are easier to catch? No one is able to answer her questions, in fact, her family seems completely uninterested.
Calpurnia gets up the courage to ask her Granddaddy, a man who lives in the family house but hardly speaks a word to anyone. He shows up for meals and then disappears: out in the woods to collect specimens, into his library or out to his backyard shed/laboratory. Nobody in the family is quite sure what he is up to, but everybody knows to stay out of his way. Except Calpurnia. She steps into the shed to ask her question and a friendship is born. After 11 years of thinking that she is an oddball, Calpurnia finds a kindred spirit in her quiet, cantankerous Granddaddy who shows her that being a girl who loves books and science is OK.
If you have ever wanted something different than you think is expected of you, or if you have ever felt uninterested in the same things as the people around you, maybe you and Calpurnia are kindred spirits too. Sometimes blazing your own way can be pretty exciting. Author: Jacqueline Kelly
More kindred spirits like Calpurnia:
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Dit Sims lives in tiny Moundville, Alabama in 1917. He’s got nine brothers and sisters and his Dad routinely forgets his name. It’s summer, it’s hot and Dit’s best friend is away for the summer. When he finds out that a new postmaster is coming to town, Dit hopes the new postmaster, Mr. Walker, has a son close to his age that will want to go fishing and play baseball.
The postmaster comes, and Dit is disappointed to learn that he doesn’t bring a son, he brings prissy, brainiac Emma who always has her nose in a book and doesn’t know one thing about baseball. Dit’s town is disappointed to learn that the Walkers are African-American.
Dit’s family welcomes the Walkers and the two families slowly build a relationaship sharing chores and helping out when family members are sick. Dit and Emma start building a friendship too. Dit teaches Emma how to throw and hit a baseball. Emma helps Dit with math and introduces him to exciting adventure books like Treasure Island. Slowly, over the summer, the two kids become best friends.
Some people in Dit’s town don’t welcome the Walkers, especially the town sheriff. Some people object to Dit and Emma’s friendship, even object to the Walkers living in Moundville at all. When the two kids witness a racially motivated shooting and realize their friend, the town’s black barber, is unjustly blamed and sentenced to hang, they secretly come up with a daring plan to save him.
This story brings the injustice and horrors of racial bigotry to life. It’s a story about friendship between people and how that friendship is stronger than the forces around it that try to tear it apart. Two thumbs up historical fiction. Author: Kristin Levine
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