Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

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Genre: Realistic Fiction

A 2013 ALA Notable Book for Children

Liar & Spy is a charming if unremarkable read. It would be best suited to younger readers – grades 5-8 (easier read for 7th and 8th graders). It was interesting to read and left me wanting to know how everything turned out, had interesting characters and was well-written (Stead won the 2010 Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me). Overall, it was a quick and nice read, but that was about it.

Liar & Spy is the story of Georges, a 7th-grade misfit who has just moved to a new apartment in Brooklyn. When Georges rather accidentally joins the building’s Spy Club he meets Safer, a boy his age from a rather unconventional family.  Safer recruits Georges to help him investigate a mysterious man in the building, testing Georges courage and loyalty. Meanwhile, Georges is dealing with bullies at school, the family’s new financial circumstances, and a largely absent mother.

The book showcases great parent-child relationships teaches lessons about friendship, self-advocacy, courage, honesty and the value of individuality. It’s enjoyable and delightful to read – Stead’s has a talent for weaving metaphor seamlessly into the story, a rare trait in YA novels that reminds me of Sharon Creech.

Solid storytelling and a good outside read for younger/weaker readers.

Teaching resources:

Publisher’s website: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/208277/liar-spy-by-rebecca-stead

Author’s Website: http://www.rebeccasteadbooks.com/

Rear Window (1954): This classic Alfred Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart/Grace Kelly movie is referred to once and would be a good viewing companion to the book

How Taste Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/taste.htm

Anti-Bullying Information: http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Google Play interview with Rebecca Stead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2YAej6_fPY

Ideas for Assessment: 

1. Have students compare and contrast Georges and Safer. (Evaluation)

2. Think about the way Georges solves the problem of being bullied by Dallas and Carter. Do you think this was the best solution? Explain why or why not, and describe what you would have done to solve the problem. (Evaluation)

3. What advice would you give to Safer if he decides to go to school with Georges in the fall? (Or, have students write the next chapter about what happens when Safer attends school). (Evaluation/Synthesis)

4. Have students write about a bittersweet memory and explain why it is both bitter and sweet. (Synthesis)

Please leave questions, comments, book review requests, etc. below!

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