Author: Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: August 7th, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?
Liar & Spy is an inspired, often-funny story about destiny, goofy brilliance, and courage. Like Stead's Newbery Medal-winning When You Reach Me, it will keep readers guessing until the end.What Jen Thinks: I love Rebecca Stead's writing. I enjoyed it in When You Reach Me and have read First Light, as well. I just recommended First Light as a contemporary science fiction actually. I just love how lyrical her writing is. When she writes about the characters and the places they go, she seems to have a perfect blend and mix of how she describes them. It's hard to describe...I just know I love it.
Similarly to When You Reach Me, Stead takes readers on an unknown adventure with Liar and Spy. Having read When You Reach Me, I kept thinking and wondering and trying my hardest to figure out how she was going to surprise readers at the end...or if she was even going to! I think it's easy to get caught up in the wonderful characters and how they interact and their problems and to put aside the idea of something larger looming in the future of the story. That might be the brilliance of Rebecca Stead. Sure, we know somehow there is something not quite right, but at the same time, there is so much going on between George and school and his relationship with his dad and his new friend, Safer, that there isn't much time to spend dwelling on what part of the story we aren't being told. It just makes me want to smile and shake my head that she is able to pull this off. To me, it's a feat of an awesome author. Bravo!
What Kellee Thinks: Georges doesn't really enjoy school, because even his ex-best friend doesn't really associate with him. On top of that, his family has had to sell their home and move to an apartment because his architecture dad lost his job meaning his mother is always at the hospital working doubles. All Georges wants right now is something good to happen (and maybe a distraction) and Safer is exactly what the doctor ordered. Safer, a 12 year old home schooled boy who lives in his new apartment complex, is the founder of the Spy Club and it is now up to Georges and Safer to find out what is really going on in the apartment. The reader will also want to find out what happens to Georges at school where the bullying is just getting out of control.
This book is a great book of friendship, family and a proclamation that being different doesn't mean you have to be alone.
Rebecca Stead is a master at telling stories that are not what they seem at the beginning. Just like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is a mystery where clues are revealed slowly throughout the book.
Also, I love when art is integrated in a book and Rebecca Stead does it beautifully in this one. Georges was named after George Seurat because his mother loves Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (they even have a print of it hung up in their living room). She says that we are all just dots of a bigger, beautiful picture just liked Seurat's artwork. The Seaurat print (or Sir Ott as Georges says) becomes a character in itself when it becomes a confidant of Georges on nights when he is home alone.
Oh, and I truly love this character- Bob English Who Draws- in the book. He is Georges's science partner and is quite the character. His spelling ideas are very interesting...
Read Together: Grades 4 - 7
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 8
Read With: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Lemonade War (series) by Jacqueline Davies, See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles, Pie by Sarah Weeks, Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Chase Against Time by Steve Reifman, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Snatch of Text: "I think of all those thousands of dots Seurat used to paint the picture. I think about how if you stand back from the painting, you can see the people, the green grass and the cute monkey on a leash, but if you get closer, the monkey kind of dissolves right in front of your eyes. Like Mom says, life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it's amazing, but if you're standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it's really hard to tell." (Read on Kindle, page numbers unavailable)
Mentor Text For: Dialogue, Predicting, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt all alone - maybe when you felt like no one could understand how you were feeling or you felt like you couldn't talk to anyone about how you were feeling. How did you deal with the situation? Did you finally confide in someone?
Topics Covered: Art, Bullying, Friendship, Spelling, Family, Fitting in, Economy, Love, Denial, Adversity, Self-Confidence, Courage
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