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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Liar and Spy, Rebecca Stead

Earlier in the year there was a lot of buzz about this book as a possible Newbery or even Printz contender.  The author, Rebecca Stead won the Newbery for When You Reach Me a few years ago.  I didn't love that book as much as some other Newbery winners, and I hoped I'd love this book more.

I did enjoy this book, which I listened to on audio, but I don't see it as an award winner.  Which means, of course, it's likely to get some awards next week...We'll see. Actually, I can see this book getting (deservedly) a Schneider Family award or honor. I cannot see it getting the Newbery and definitely not the Printz.  (Famous last words??)

This is the story of Georges and Safer, two boys who have secrets they're trying to cope with.  As an adult reader, predicting their secrets was not very difficult.  I am curious as to whether this would be the same for younger readers. I think younger readers without a lot of life experience would definitely understand there are secrets, but what those secrets are would be more difficult to discern.

Georges has just moved to a new apartment and he meets a boy named Safer there who has a spy club. What kid wouldn't want to join a spy club, right?  I know I would have.  Makes my heart start pounding just to think of doing spy things, but it's an exciting kind of stress.  For Georges, though, it's often just a stressful kind of stress, and he only participates because he thinks Safer is in danger.

Georges also has to deal with bullying at school, a very timely topic.  As is typical with many kids, he doesn't want to trouble his parents about the issues going on at school, so things start to escalate there.  Both the bullying issues at school and Safer and Georges' relationship examine what it means to be friends and the importance of truth telling.

Perhaps my trouble with choosing award books is that I look at them with the lens of a young reader and what I think will be interesting to them. I always want the award books to be books with strong kid appeal.  I think this book's kid appeal is definitely stronger than When You Reach Me, but I just don't see it as having that last bit of oomph.  We'll see if the committee agrees.  Betsy Bird agrees with me, so that's something at least.

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