“Liar and Spy” by Rebecca Stead

“Liar and Spy” by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb 2012) has my vote as the next Newbery winner, the highest honor given 13262061 to a middle grade book. We’ll know what the committee decides nest week, January 28. I haven’t read EVERYTHING this year, so I might have missed something, but this is a great novel, as are all of Rebecca Stead’s three novels.

Georges is a seventh grader, a city kid, named after the post-impressionistic artist Georges Seurat who painted A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in millions of colored dots. That ‘s’ at the end of Georges is enough for class bullies to call him Gorgeous, bump him in the cafeteria, and tease him mercilessly. His mother has often told him that these small incidents are each like one small dot in the Seurat painting. They don’t much matter. The big picture is made up of millions of tiny dots of color. Stand back so you can see the complete picture. In a few years everything will change.

His dad says, the individual dot—what’s happening now—is important. The reader 280px-A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884knows that both viewpoints are true—the one dot (or point) and the larger picture they create are both important. Pointillism.

Georges’ upstairs neighbor, Safer, who is homeschooled, introduces Georges to his Spy Club. Georges wonders at the boredom of having to endlessly observe (spy on) the image projected from the foyer webcam, watching for Mr. X to enter the building. Safer says, “Boredom is what happens to people who have no control over their minds.” Safer,

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besides having an odd name, seems wise and mysterious.

Moral issues are addressed in a real way. When Georges visits the candy store, he says, “I debate the morality of eating a Starburst before the pack is paid for and decide not to.” That’s small but the issues become much larger. What about the moral ground of ‘breaking and entering’ a stranger’s apartment?

Candy, Safer’s little sister, another wonderfully odd character, named after her dearest love, also homeschooled, always answers their apartment door wearing pink pig slippers, but everything else changes radically—overalls, flowery dress—sometimes changing every fifteen minutes.304351

Apart from some hilarious scenes, the feel of the story is slightly dark, but it’s the dark inside a New York City apartment building. And in the end, with a twist that knocked me off the chair, in its way, brings a flashflood of light.

 

Read more about the Seurat painting and pointillism at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sunday_Afternoon_on_the_Island_of_La_Grande_Jatte

Or it’s possible “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio could win. That will be my next review, due out February 10, 2013.

Patricia Hruby Powell is a nationally touring speaker, dancer, storyteller, occasional librarian, and children’s book author.

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5 comments on ““Liar and Spy” by Rebecca Stead
  1. Louann Brown says:

    Love your reviews! Helps me make a valued reading list.

  2. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    I agree with Louann. I love your reviews, too! I’ve read LIAR AND SPY but am not as enthusiastic as you and others. (Still love the review!) I didn’t get emotionally involved with the characters. I had the same lack of connection with Stead’s Newbery winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME. Also, the ending of LIAR didn’t quite work for me. But, obviously, a lot of people love this book. Individual taste comes into deciding what’s great. My choice for the Newbery this year is SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, but there are about twenty wonderful books from 2012 that could win. We’ll soon see which one is the lucky one, and I do think “luck” is involved.

  3. Thanks, y’all. I’m also wondering about WONDER. There are quite a few fine books out there. I’ve got a library request on S & G but haven’t read it yet.

  4. Sara Latta says:

    Great review, Patricia. And you do a wonderful job of formatting your reviews, with relevant pictures and covers of her other books. I just kind of throw mine up there. I know I should put more time into my blog. You inspire me!

  5. Sara, could you come over and sort out my technical glitches on my blog site? 😉 Okay, just kidding. What I meant to say, is thank you.

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