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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just a really, really good adolescent book. That's all.

Stead, Rebeccca (2012) Liar and Spy  New York: Wendy Lamb

 
I loved the first Rebecca Stead book I read -- When You Reach Me -- but in order to really enjoy that book, you kind of needed to have read Madeliene L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, so it was hard to recommend universally.  And then I read Liar and Spy.
 
I could tell you that this book is kind of like a cross between Holes (for the surprise twists), Harriet the Spy (for the humor and the idea of kids spying on adults) and Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (for the sequence in the science lab). 
 
I could tell you it is about a seventh grade boy named Georges who moves into a new apartment building with his family and meets an odd 12-year-old named Safer who enlists George's help to spy on a mysterious stranger who lives in their building.  And I suppose I could explain the three other sub-plots that are woven around that story (especially the one where the nerds band together and defeat the bullies -- at least for a little while) -- but that really wouldn't give you the flavor of the book.
 
I could tell you there are some excellent themes subtly woven into this book.  Themes about fear and courage, truth and untruth, friendship, independence, and non-conformity.
 
I could quote you the opening paragraphs of the book:
 
"There's this totally false map of the human tongue.  It's supposed to show where we taste different things, like salty on the side of the tongue, sweet on the front, bitter on the back.  Some guy drew it a hundred years ago, and people have been forcing kids to memorize it ever since. 
     "But it's wrong -- all wrong.  As in, not even the slightest bit right...."
 
But none of that would get across how much fun this book is, how delightful its characterizations and twists and turns are.  And how, when I finally figured out the final revelation, it made me a little teary in a happy way (to be clear, as a burley sort of guy, I don't cry, but I do sometimes get a little sniffly inside my nose.)  And how  much fun it would be to read this book out loud to fifth graders and up.  And how it would be a great book to give as a gift or to get for you upper elementary, middle school, or even high school classroom.  
 
The only way I am going to get all that across is if you read it.  Can you do that for me?  Then we'll talk. 

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