Kaleidoscope is classic Brian Selznick with the illustrations. It is busy, crowded, soft, heavy, black and white, surreal and realistic. However, the story is not what I expect from Selznick. It is abstract. Several stories are contained into three parts: Morning, Afternoon and Evening. All of these stories feel as if they should be connected, but none actually seem to be actually connected. Or are they?
There are images that show up in more than one story (the boys breaking into a place and burning it down, and the destroying of memories and knowledge. Plus, when the boys breaking in and starting the fire is written about the language is almost word for word the same to describe both acts). But even that does not make it feel like they “belong together.” The one thing that seems to connect every is the character of James. Still, he has various roles and none of them are connected to the ones before or after (he is angel, devil, Eve, serpent, dragon, ghost, lover, imaginary friend).
The themes of angels, religion, death, love, loss and change repeat and maybe that is the only connection that is there. The book feels like something you write after you have lost a beloved person to death. I am sure (as it was written during Covid and Selznick and his husband where separated), those emotions came into play, and he was feeling loss and trying to find hope.
Aimed at kids 10 to 15, I am not sure they will appreciate the subtle and just take things as face value. The adult me recommends a second read.