Liar & Spy
Thankfully, since Rebecca Stead has received a Newbery Honor recently (for When You Reach Me, now on my to-read list for sure!), you can bet this latest book of hers will hit library shelves in reasonably short order. Until that time, you can find it in stores this month (starting today, I believe).
I mention that because this is a terrific little book. So often these days, middle grade fiction runs upward of 250 pages! Not bad if you’re a voracious reader, but what if you aren’t? What if you don’t even like reading?
Than you, Ms. Stead, for giving us a delightful book that clocks in at under 200 pages.
Often I want to write the “Story” portion of a review before the “Truth” portion; it’s easier. But Liar & Spy has much to recommend it. While not overflowing with “Truth,” per se, there is a lot in this little book that merits good discussion. And, you don’t “have” to discuss it for the truths to sink in. Bullying, when it’s time to break the “rules,” lying–should you lie to/for a friend?, friendship, the cool crowd at school, parents who are working hard and not always available, fears, and others–all packed into this short book! It’s not a “book-with-a-message,” but it hits many key middle school issues without being preachy.
Ms. Stead knows how to craft a story. All the little dots are intricately connected (and, if you’ve read the book, you’ll recognize that reference to dots!). There’s a bit of mystery at work on several levels–holding the reader’s attention and adding in a touch of suspense. Mom and Dad aren’t available all the time for Georges (pronounced George) to turn to for help; he has to start figuring things out on his own. This is indicative of middle grades fiction: the kid must start to figure things out on his/her own–but the parent figures are not entirely absent like they often are in young adult fiction. L&S reads like a fresh take on this classic theme, though, and is well done.
All in all, a book well worth reading! It’s going to be on my recommend list for sure. I think this is a book teachers will want to teach, and a book kids will enjoy reading–perfect!
**Updated 7/25/12 to note that this title also received a star from Horn Book Magazine
Recommended for middle grades students