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Kaleidoscope

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A ship. A garden. A library. A key. In Kaleidoscope, the incomparable Brian Selznick presents the story of two people bound to each other through time and space, memory and dreams. At the center of their relationship is a mystery about the nature of grief and love which will look different to each reader.


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A ship. A garden. A library. A key. In Kaleidoscope, the incomparable Brian Selznick presents the story of two people bound to each other through time and space, memory and dreams. At the center of their relationship is a mystery about the nature of grief and love which will look different to each reader.

30 review for Kaleidoscope

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    There aren’t many books that I would say are postmodern middle grade books. This is one. Incredibly short stories (2-5 pages) that weave together to form a sort of tapestry, but also leave a lot open to the reader. This book is like a loom that provides a finished product when you look at it from one angle, but from a different angle is a pile of coloured thread. And both are beautiful, in their own ways. This could be a really cool daily provocation or exploration of language and story telling, There aren’t many books that I would say are postmodern middle grade books. This is one. Incredibly short stories (2-5 pages) that weave together to form a sort of tapestry, but also leave a lot open to the reader. This book is like a loom that provides a finished product when you look at it from one angle, but from a different angle is a pile of coloured thread. And both are beautiful, in their own ways. This could be a really cool daily provocation or exploration of language and story telling, at the cost of 5-10 minutes. It is different than Selznick’s earlier works, and readers should be aware of that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Thanks Scholastic for the ARC. The book is brilliant and a must read for adults as well as young adults. I feel rather than a kid’s book that the publisher classifies as Juvenile Fiction dealing with Love, Romance, Social Themes, and Emotions and Feelings, it it more in the ilk of magical realism. I can't explain why, but the story and illustrations capture many thoughts and emotions that I felt in the pandemic year. I'm pressed to consider this book for kids younger than teens, yet I'm sure the Thanks Scholastic for the ARC. The book is brilliant and a must read for adults as well as young adults. I feel rather than a kid’s book that the publisher classifies as Juvenile Fiction dealing with Love, Romance, Social Themes, and Emotions and Feelings, it it more in the ilk of magical realism. I can't explain why, but the story and illustrations capture many thoughts and emotions that I felt in the pandemic year. I'm pressed to consider this book for kids younger than teens, yet I'm sure there are "tween" readers that will appreciate it. I believe it is most appropriate and will be enjoyed by adults, and, libraries need to buy this in large quantities.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    I started this book and had no idea what was going on. I was confused, but I trust Selznick’s writing and was (as always) captivated by his illustrations - so I kept reading. I don’t really know if kids will like this… why did I like it so, so much? This collection of short stories are all tied together, but not in a straightforward or linear way. And even though I lost my dad five years ago, I closed the book and he’s all I could think about. How somehow this inexplicable book is about life and I started this book and had no idea what was going on. I was confused, but I trust Selznick’s writing and was (as always) captivated by his illustrations - so I kept reading. I don’t really know if kids will like this… why did I like it so, so much? This collection of short stories are all tied together, but not in a straightforward or linear way. And even though I lost my dad five years ago, I closed the book and he’s all I could think about. How somehow this inexplicable book is about life and coping and grief and loss and relationships and unexplained magic. I loved it. My heart thanks you, Mr. Selznick.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is described as a book of short stories, but that’s not really accurate - they are fragments or shards of a kaleidoscope, each one a new turn of the image. Some of them I could have read whole novels of, some felt like complete stories. Some take place in a moment, some span centuries. Some could almost connect as one timeline, others are from completely different worlds. But ultimately, they all tell the same story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bailey

    This was not what I was expect from Brian Selznick. Don’t get me wrong, the illustrations are gorgeous but they’re just that: illustrations. They don’t help tell a story. The story was unexpected too. Each chapter told a similar story of a person missing and/or grieving the loss of a beloved person. There was no character development or continuity. I understand that that was kind of the point, writing the book the way Selznick did. But it didn’t work for me, nor do I think it will work for the y This was not what I was expect from Brian Selznick. Don’t get me wrong, the illustrations are gorgeous but they’re just that: illustrations. They don’t help tell a story. The story was unexpected too. Each chapter told a similar story of a person missing and/or grieving the loss of a beloved person. There was no character development or continuity. I understand that that was kind of the point, writing the book the way Selznick did. But it didn’t work for me, nor do I think it will work for the young adult/ adolescent audience he writes for. **I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maeve

    An unnamed child works through the grief and sadness caused by their friend James' death. Through short stories (some real, some imagined), the reader learns about their relationship. Wildly different than Selznick's normal writing style...this book is a collection of short stories each accompanied by two illustrations: one that relates to the story and another of a kaleidoscopic image. The stories are not told in any chronological order, and the narrator is not identified. I felt lost reading th An unnamed child works through the grief and sadness caused by their friend James' death. Through short stories (some real, some imagined), the reader learns about their relationship. Wildly different than Selznick's normal writing style...this book is a collection of short stories each accompanied by two illustrations: one that relates to the story and another of a kaleidoscopic image. The stories are not told in any chronological order, and the narrator is not identified. I felt lost reading the story; which made it very difficult to relate to the characters.

  7. 5 out of 5

    FloeticFlo

    I often enjoy going in blind when I read books -- not knowing exactly what a book is about somehow can add to the enjoyment of reading it. It's, like, completely new and unexpected as I experience, and that is so fun. However, with this one, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I known what was going on and what it was trying to do. Without looking at it through the lends of a book about grieving and about living during the pandemic, then it just reads as a random collection of random storie I often enjoy going in blind when I read books -- not knowing exactly what a book is about somehow can add to the enjoyment of reading it. It's, like, completely new and unexpected as I experience, and that is so fun. However, with this one, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I known what was going on and what it was trying to do. Without looking at it through the lends of a book about grieving and about living during the pandemic, then it just reads as a random collection of random stories. Even with the three sections. Once I put the whole grief thing in my mind, I thought about how it related to/what it meant in the context of the remaining stories. That made it better. It made some sort of sense. I should also note that I read this via audio -- the narrator was fantastic and the music was beautiful. However, that means I did not see any of the pictures. I should also add that I have never read any other of the author's works, so I knew nothing about his style.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Mechem

    I seem to be the odd one out here in that I really didn't take away anything from the stories themselves nor the overall "tapestry" trying to be built here. Even after reading the reviews to see what others took away, it didn't coalesce into anything meaningful for me. I see the themes trying to be discussed and everyone emerging with their own interpretations, however I don't see 'yes, death and grief do exist' as one of those intended interpretations given that's all I could really come away w I seem to be the odd one out here in that I really didn't take away anything from the stories themselves nor the overall "tapestry" trying to be built here. Even after reading the reviews to see what others took away, it didn't coalesce into anything meaningful for me. I see the themes trying to be discussed and everyone emerging with their own interpretations, however I don't see 'yes, death and grief do exist' as one of those intended interpretations given that's all I could really come away with. I do find it hard to believe, again in my limited understanding of what exactly this was supposed to do, that this is a middle grade novel. It is a shame because the pieces are well written and interesting on their own. I did also enjoy the abstract nature of some of the characters as though their identity or meaning was a riddle to solve. The illustrations were very Brian Sleznick and spacetacular.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Rose Eliz

    This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is a collection of what initially seem to be unconnected short stories. Each one relates a different tale about the first-person narrator and a boy named James. The narrator’s and James’s identities are malleable from story to story, though certain themes and motifs remain consistent or reappear throughout the book: love and loss, grief and friendship; apples, gardens, butterflies, and—of course—a boy named James. It is a beautifully written book t This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is a collection of what initially seem to be unconnected short stories. Each one relates a different tale about the first-person narrator and a boy named James. The narrator’s and James’s identities are malleable from story to story, though certain themes and motifs remain consistent or reappear throughout the book: love and loss, grief and friendship; apples, gardens, butterflies, and—of course—a boy named James. It is a beautifully written book that is at once strange and wholly wonderful. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the first time I read it a few weeks ago. Kaleidoscope does require effort on behalf of the reader, just as an actual kaleidoscope does. In fact, “Kaleidoscope” is the perfect title for such a collection of vignettes. You need to be willing to give yourself over to the stories, to lose yourself in the different facets of the book, all while asking (particularly on a re-read) how the stories relate to one another, even abstractly. There are also wonderful illustrations that engage the reader with similar concepts on a visual level. A “traditional” illustration marks the beginning of each short story, while a kaleidoscopic rendering of that image ends the story. Although one reviewer on here stated that the images don’t help tell the story, I would respectfully disagree. While they might not tell a “story,” the images reiterate the nature of the stories: I thought of it as one image (the “traditional” image) that represents the story, and one kaleidoscopic image that represents the story’s relationship to the others. Again and again in both the stories and the images, the reader is confronted by how things fragment, reflect back on each other, refract in on themselves, create new images from old ones. It might be a difficult concept for kids and even adults, but it’s worth exploring, particularly with regards to how grief and loss can fragment and disrupt our lives, leaving our world changed, but not without signs of that which was. The highest praise I can give this book is that I wish I had this book in my life as a kid and young adult, when the unexpected death of a loved one shattered my entire world. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of kaleidoscopes—just broken fragments on the floor. No book can heal those wounds or transform one’s way of seeing things, but this one would have helped guide me towards constructive understanding. It focuses on grief and loss from the perspective of having had and living on, even as it honors the grief and confusion that come with losing someone you love. And yet, even with loss being at the heart of many of its stories, hopelessness and despair have no place in the pages of Kaleidoscope. If anything, it underlines the mysterious workings of the world, the power of love (romantic, platonic, and familial), and the fact that—someday, somewhere, somehow—the workings of the universe will reunite us with the people we love, even if in the most unexpected of ways. n.b.: I received a printer's proof of this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    3 1/2 stars Just as a kaleidoscope takes an image and splits it up into a hundred little pieces, this collection of stories seem to be fractured from a friendship of two boys. As with other brilliant stories by Brian Selznick the pencil illustrations provide just as much of the story as the beautiful writing making his approach to storytelling very unique. The stories and events are much like life, not always joyful or easy to read but heartfelt. This will appeal to older readers who study deeply 3 1/2 stars Just as a kaleidoscope takes an image and splits it up into a hundred little pieces, this collection of stories seem to be fractured from a friendship of two boys. As with other brilliant stories by Brian Selznick the pencil illustrations provide just as much of the story as the beautiful writing making his approach to storytelling very unique. The stories and events are much like life, not always joyful or easy to read but heartfelt. This will appeal to older readers who study deeply what they read and are the ones that go back and read passages again looking for connection and clues while putting together the puzzle. Since it deals with loss and grief it could be a good choice for kids (and possibly adults) who have lost someone close this past year. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sydney

    I don't remember very much about being alive. I don't remember the moment I died, and I don't remember most of the things I did. But I remember you. You thought you needed the machine to bring me back. You thought if you couldn't see me I was not present, if you couldn't hear me I was not speaking to you, if you couldn't feel me we could not touch. You thought the machine would change all that, but I was already with you. I didn't need a device to be there. You yourself were the Spirit Machine. I don't remember very much about being alive. I don't remember the moment I died, and I don't remember most of the things I did. But I remember you. You thought you needed the machine to bring me back. You thought if you couldn't see me I was not present, if you couldn't hear me I was not speaking to you, if you couldn't feel me we could not touch. You thought the machine would change all that, but I was already with you. I didn't need a device to be there. You yourself were the Spirit Machine. You were the thing that tied to me the world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Spoer

    DO NOT READ THIS WHILE AT WORK. It's heartbreaking and lovely and I cried and my coworkers were wondering what was wrong. Although, I work at a library so everyone understood my pain and suffering. I want to go back and reread this constantly. DO NOT READ THIS WHILE AT WORK. It's heartbreaking and lovely and I cried and my coworkers were wondering what was wrong. Although, I work at a library so everyone understood my pain and suffering. I want to go back and reread this constantly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I have loved all of Brian Selznick’s books. This one made my heart ache. Like other reviewers, I think the book should be also read by adults.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    I'm not sure what I just read, but I know there is not a student at my school currently to whom I would recommend it. Middle school readers aren't quite the sophisticated type to appreciate a book that is rich in themes but lacks plot or characters. The whole thing is a little too ethereal and precious without much substance. The illustrations, which I normally love from Selznick, don't work in black and white. The beauty of a kaleidoscope is the changing colors. I'm not sure what I just read, but I know there is not a student at my school currently to whom I would recommend it. Middle school readers aren't quite the sophisticated type to appreciate a book that is rich in themes but lacks plot or characters. The whole thing is a little too ethereal and precious without much substance. The illustrations, which I normally love from Selznick, don't work in black and white. The beauty of a kaleidoscope is the changing colors.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Saner

    Like the mirrors and colored bits of glass rearrange and facture the world, Brian Selznick's new series of related short stories rearrange the lives and interactions of two young boys. But at the center of each story, we find love, friendship, grief, and hope. I found I couldn't put this book down. Each story left me wanting to journey on, like a trip through somen's imagination. While I'm not sure what the intended audience of kids 10%up will think of these stories, I think adults will fall int Like the mirrors and colored bits of glass rearrange and facture the world, Brian Selznick's new series of related short stories rearrange the lives and interactions of two young boys. But at the center of each story, we find love, friendship, grief, and hope. I found I couldn't put this book down. Each story left me wanting to journey on, like a trip through somen's imagination. While I'm not sure what the intended audience of kids 10%up will think of these stories, I think adults will fall into the world of childhood, remembering the power of friendship and the hard lessons of grief while young. A magical read, full of loss and hope.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Tournas

    Brian Selznick has translated the longings of adolescence into a moving collection of vignettes in his newest work. Each short chapter is a dream-like story that involves an unnamed 13-yr old narrator and a friend named James. Sometimes the story is in fact a fragment of a dream, and sometimes it involves a journey, or a walk, or a meditation. But each one has recurring themes of loneliness and longing, with recurring items present – a ship, a key, a journey, a library. Time is variable, and as Brian Selznick has translated the longings of adolescence into a moving collection of vignettes in his newest work. Each short chapter is a dream-like story that involves an unnamed 13-yr old narrator and a friend named James. Sometimes the story is in fact a fragment of a dream, and sometimes it involves a journey, or a walk, or a meditation. But each one has recurring themes of loneliness and longing, with recurring items present – a ship, a key, a journey, a library. Time is variable, and as is the corporality of James – is he the narrator’s invisible childhood friend? A longed for boyfriend? A beloved pal? Always, the grief over missing James is palpable, and the narrator craves his touch. This is an ethereal mediation on longing, with finely crafted vignettes which can be read in any order. A black and white pencil drawing of a kaleidoscopic image precedes each chapter, with a related realistic scene suggested by the image following. The kaleidoscope seems to represent the nature of dream interpretation, and will appeal to tweens and teens who like emotional, mysterious stories. This book will not be for everyone, but for a thoughtful, sensitive teen who is looking for meaning in their life, it will be just the thing. I think of kaleidoscopic images as being very clear and multicolored, whereas here they are black and white and indistinct. On the other hand, I think Selznick has made the images suit his purposes nicely.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Dulaney

    Brian Selznick’s illustrations are truly impressive and I found myself studying the kaleidoscope images for so long that they almost seem to start spinning as they do in the children’s toy! His new book is difficult to categorize as it seems to be a collection of short stories, but also seems to be vignettes from the lives of James and his friend both real and imagined, or maybe all imagined. In most, there is loss or separation experienced by one or both companions, but in all, there is friends Brian Selznick’s illustrations are truly impressive and I found myself studying the kaleidoscope images for so long that they almost seem to start spinning as they do in the children’s toy! His new book is difficult to categorize as it seems to be a collection of short stories, but also seems to be vignettes from the lives of James and his friend both real and imagined, or maybe all imagined. In most, there is loss or separation experienced by one or both companions, but in all, there is friendship. Kaleidoscope may be best purchased to inspire young artists and for those who enjoy story collections. Thanks for the preview copy, Scholastic.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    A tale woven only as Brian Selznick can do. So much depth and meaning in all parts of this book. Just an amazing read!!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    Two people meet and miss one another again and again in these short chapters that move through time. The stories are interconnected and yet also separate images and spaces. They are bound together by the characters themselves and also the themes that cross from one to another. There are butterflies, gardens, and gates among many other images that carry across the entire book. The characters must face their fears, reach across darkness, and grapple with grief and loss. Each chapter is a gem of a Two people meet and miss one another again and again in these short chapters that move through time. The stories are interconnected and yet also separate images and spaces. They are bound together by the characters themselves and also the themes that cross from one to another. There are butterflies, gardens, and gates among many other images that carry across the entire book. The characters must face their fears, reach across darkness, and grapple with grief and loss. Each chapter is a gem of a story, a short story that threads through to the others in ways that astonish, creating a true kaleidoscope of fractures and wholeness. Few books are this impossible to summarize. Selznick, who already has written remarkable works, writes a complex book for young readers that is one where themes and metaphors are waiting to be explored. The relationship between the two characters is fascinating, one who is named James and the other who is the narrator, seeking and finding, losing and searching. The emotions in each of the stories change and wrap around one another, creating a pattern of grief, sorrow, love and joy. It wouldn’t be a book by Selznick without his illustrations. Here he takes an illustration and turns it first into a kaleidoscope image, only revealing the actual image after the page turn. The skill here, done in charcoal gray and white, is dazzling. The images are filled with light, form and are recognizable in the kaleidoscope image. I found myself lingering between the two, flipping back and forth before reading each chapter. Complex, fractured, and resoundingly gorgeous. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Maybe 3.5. I'm still processing a little bit. I was intrigued when our store received this ARC. I have never read this author but I have definitely heard of him and his books. The problem with an ARC is that you do not know too much about the book. I went in knowing nothing and it was a little confusing. The illustrations are amazing of course and the book is a quick read. The book is a collection of short stories and I was not understanding what I was reading. I finally was figuring out it was Maybe 3.5. I'm still processing a little bit. I was intrigued when our store received this ARC. I have never read this author but I have definitely heard of him and his books. The problem with an ARC is that you do not know too much about the book. I went in knowing nothing and it was a little confusing. The illustrations are amazing of course and the book is a quick read. The book is a collection of short stories and I was not understanding what I was reading. I finally was figuring out it was about loss and grieving I guess. I don't know that children will understand that though. If a child has lost someone I might recommend this book because it is good about explaining the person is still with you even when they are not with you. Going in blind to this book was just confusing. ok. so I guess the short stories are all his nightmares and dreams about James. "Life isn't organized. Why should my library be any different?"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jackie ϟ Bookseller

    "The entire universe can be found inside an apple." This is a great children's book that could actually be enjoyed by all ages. This series of stories, all with a character named James and an unnamed narrator, are otherwise unconnected. Some themes repeat, like keys and ships and art, but each story is completely independent of all the others. Poetic and fascinating, this book would be a great source of bedtime stories, from which a tale of aliens or dragons or a ship wreck could be told each "The entire universe can be found inside an apple." This is a great children's book that could actually be enjoyed by all ages. This series of stories, all with a character named James and an unnamed narrator, are otherwise unconnected. Some themes repeat, like keys and ships and art, but each story is completely independent of all the others. Poetic and fascinating, this book would be a great source of bedtime stories, from which a tale of aliens or dragons or a ship wreck could be told each night. Not what I usually read, but very interesting and entertaining.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I have read 3 other Selznick books and I adored them (all 5 stars). I just don't know about this. It was confused. I think the title might be a great metaphor for the story. He had a story and then frequently he turned the kaleidoscope and re-arranged the next part based on the new image. I guess there's a story here if you can out it back together. Admittedly, I was quite tired when I started it. Nonetheless, this kind of storytelling, whether words or visual, is not one I appreciate; at least I have read 3 other Selznick books and I adored them (all 5 stars). I just don't know about this. It was confused. I think the title might be a great metaphor for the story. He had a story and then frequently he turned the kaleidoscope and re-arranged the next part based on the new image. I guess there's a story here if you can out it back together. Admittedly, I was quite tired when I started it. Nonetheless, this kind of storytelling, whether words or visual, is not one I appreciate; at least not at this time in my life when they seem quite prevalent. Your mileage may vary. Sara brought it home from DPL.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ron Madsen

    At first I didn't understand where this series of apparently disconnected chapters was going. But I continued and gradually began to see the relationships of each to the whole. I ended up really liking the book. "Maybe this is what it's like to be inside the mind of God. The past and the future mean nothing, and the time is always now." At first I didn't understand where this series of apparently disconnected chapters was going. But I continued and gradually began to see the relationships of each to the whole. I ended up really liking the book. "Maybe this is what it's like to be inside the mind of God. The past and the future mean nothing, and the time is always now."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Rose

    This was really interesting—it was more like an emotion than a story, exploring a lot of themes through interconnected but vastly different short stories. It was a lot about friendship and grief and fear. I have no idea if a young reader will like it , but it definitely made me feel something.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    3.5 stars. I got strong The Starless Sea vibes from this one, but thought this was much better. I love Selznik’s illustrations, and the stories are gentle and feel melancholic. Hard to believe this is considered middle grade.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Brilliant and bewildering at the same time. I have not read a book quite like it. Beautifully illustrated.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan Poblocki

    Well then… This is a masterpiece. “Time is funny in the garden,” said the dragon. “It’s speeds up and slows down in the strangest ways”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Lenz

    Beautiful, compelling, confusing, brilliant, wise, affecting... I have no idea how to rate this book. It's an experience. Beautiful, compelling, confusing, brilliant, wise, affecting... I have no idea how to rate this book. It's an experience.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Reynolds

    A fragmented, elegiac collection of short stories by Brian Selznick. These tales are beautifully written and suffused with a yearning, mournful quality. If you listen to the audiobook (and you should), stick around for the brief interview with Selznick at the end, in which he explains how Kaleidoscope (a five-year project) came apart and then came together again in the midst of the pandemic. The stories are ostensibly aimed at age ten and up, but I think grown-ups will love them too. In some way A fragmented, elegiac collection of short stories by Brian Selznick. These tales are beautifully written and suffused with a yearning, mournful quality. If you listen to the audiobook (and you should), stick around for the brief interview with Selznick at the end, in which he explains how Kaleidoscope (a five-year project) came apart and then came together again in the midst of the pandemic. The stories are ostensibly aimed at age ten and up, but I think grown-ups will love them too. In some ways they seem too heavy for children, but after nearly two years of pandemic-related death and upheaval, these gentle tales of longing and loss might resonate deeply with young readers. Gwendoline Christie’s narration is impeccable.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick Rivard

    It’s hard to express how much I loved this book, and Selznick, in general. Had Van Gogh been an author instead of a painter I would expect that his novels would have been something akin to Selznick. This novel is beautifully written, complex, and unexpected. In time this may be considered to be Selznick’s’ masterpiece.

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