Liar and Spy

Liar and Spy

4.1 62
by Rebecca Stead
     
 

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The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who

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Overview

The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old 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: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end.

Praise for Liar & Spy

   • Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction (UK)
   • Texas’ 2014-2015 Bluebonnet Master List
   • A Junior Library Guild Selection 
   • A New York Times Bestseller
   • An Indie Bestseller
   • Kirkus Reviews starred review
   • Publishers Weekly starred review
   • The Horn Book starred review
   • School Library Journal starred review
   • The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred review
   • Autumn 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List
   • Nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013
   • Kirkus Reviews Best of Children’s Books 2012 List
   • Publishers Weekly Best of Children’s Fiction 2012
   • School Library Journal Best of Children’s Fiction 2012 List
   • The Horn Book’s Best of 2012 List
   • Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2012 for Kids List
   • Amazon’s Best of the Year, Middle Grade (#3)
   • A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2012
   • Holiday gift guides: Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times
   • NPR Outstanding “Backseat” Reads for Ages 9-14, NPR’s Backseat Book Club
   • One of The Atlantic Wire’s 25 favorite middle grade and young adult book covers of 2012
   • The Wall Street Journal’s Best Children’s Books of 2012
   • The Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2012
   • The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 2012 Blue Ribbons List

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…Stead has such a fine grasp on the alternately base and fanciful preoccupations of seventh graders that even the occasional forays into capital-­C Cuteness get a pass…Stead handily succeeds in keeping all the mysteries going to the bitter end. And in each case, this non-young adult was genuinely surprised by the outcomes.
—Lucinda Rosenfeld
Publishers Weekly
Seventh grade is not going well for Georges, the only child of an out-of-work Brooklyn architect and a nurse who named him after her favorite painter, pointillist Georges Seurat. Although Georges's mother has taken on double shifts to bring in extra income, the family has had to sell their house and move into an apartment. At school, former best friend Jason, who has started dressing like the skateboarder he isn't, now stands idly by while bullies harass Georges. Newbery Medalist Stead (When You Reach Me) expertly balances ?Georges's blue period with the introduction of the new neighbors: amateur spy Safer, and his younger sister, Candy, whose parents (in one of many hilarious details) let the kids name themselves. As homeschooled siblings, they offer refreshing perspectives on the ridiculousness of what goes on at Georges's school, including a forthcoming science unit on taste buds that the kids believe forecasts one's destiny. Safer recruits Georges to investigate and observe—using the lobbycam to track a mysterious tenant and binoculars to monitor a nest of wild green parrots—but the biggest secrets are the ones these two sensitive boys have buried in their hearts. Stead has a talent for introducing curriculum-ready topics in the most accessible ways imaginable, e.g., Seurat's painting methods become a persuasive metaphor for what Georges is going through and how he can survive it. Chock-full of fascinating characters and intelligent questions, this is as close to perfect as middle-grade novels come. Ages 9–12. Agent: Faye Bender, Faye Bender Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
School Library Journal Best of Children's Books 2012

Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Books 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
“Readers will sympathize with Georges and Safer as they negotiate various familiar obstacles, but it’s the celebration that will leave them exultant.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, September 2012:
“The ending twists readers’ entire perception of the events and creates a brilliant conclusion to an insightful novel.”

Starred Review, The Horn Book, September/October, 2012:
“Stead’s spare and elegant prose, compassionate insight into the lives of young people, wry sense of humor, deft plotting, and ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and intriguing way make this much more than a mystery with a twist.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2012:
“Chock-full of fascinating characters and intelligent questions, this is as close to perfect as middle-grade novels come.”

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:
“[A] big-hearted, delightfully quirky tale…. Georges resolves his various issues in a way that’s both ingenious and organic to the story….Original and winning”

VOYA - Lori Pruyne
Georges has it pretty good, but then his best friend becomes a skater who hangs with the bullies who make Georges their target; his dad gets fired; his mom has to work extra shifts; and they have to sell their house. The new apartment does not measure up, until Georges sees a sign advertising the Spy Club. This leads him to Safer, who promises to train Georges to be a spy and enlists him to help scope out the building's possibly murderous man in black. Georges is unsure about being a spy, but is also unsure about how to deal with the bullies at school, whether the taste lab will determine he is, in fact, a geeksack, and, most importantly, whether Safer is really all he seems. Stead's vibrant, fully actualized characters—determined Georges; his earnest, hopeful father; the mysterious, damaged Safer; Dallas the jeering bully; enigmatic Bob English Who Draws—elevate this coming-of-age story from typical middle-school angst to a truly quirky, memorable piece. The seemingly insignificant minutiae of Georges' daily life—the anatomy of the tongue, escaped parrots, Ben Franklin's Rules for Spelling—achieve symbolic significance as they lead Georges to a place where he can face the looming loss he spends most of the novel avoiding. All the pieces come together in a magnificent twist at the end, reinforcing the message that all obstacles can be overcome. Young readers will see themselves in Georges's frustrations, and celebrate and be inspired by his victories over his tormentors—and himself. Reviewer: Lori Pruyne
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Georges's life is turned upside down when his father loses his job, forcing his mother to take on extra nursing shifts and prompting the family to move from their house into an unfamiliar Brooklyn apartment. At school, Georges is a bit of an outcast, having been abandoned by his one and only friend and often the subject of bullies' taunts. Then he sees a sign advertising a Spy Club and meets Safer, a homeschooled loner who lives in his building, and Safer's warm, welcoming, and quirky family offers him respite from the stress at home. Together the boys track a mysterious building resident who Safer is sure is hiding a sinister secret. As the investigation progresses, Georges grows increasingly uncomfortable with Safer's actions. Stead has written a lovely, quiet, and layered novel that explores friendship in all its facets. She particularly examines truths, secrets, deceptions, and imagination and whether these can destroy or ultimately strengthen a friendship. The ending twists readers' entire perception of the events and creates a brilliant conclusion to an insightful novel.—Naphtali L. Faris, Missouri State Library, Jefferson City
Kirkus Reviews
A seventh-grade boy who is coping with social and economic issues moves into a new apartment building, where he makes friends with an over-imaginative home-schooled boy and his eccentric family. Social rules are meant to be broken is the theme of this big-hearted, delightfully quirky tale, and in keeping with that, Stead creates a world where nothing is as it seems. Yet the surprises are meticulously foreshadowed, so when the pieces of the puzzle finally click in, the readers' "aha" moments are filled with profound satisfaction. When an economic downturn forces Georges' family to move out of their house and into an apartment, it brings Georges into contact with Safer, a home-schooled boy about the same age, and his unconventional but endearing family--and a mystery involving their possibly evil neighbor, Mr. X. At school, Georges must grapple with another type of mystery: why his once–best friend Jason "shrugged off" their lifelong friendship and suddenly no longer sits with him at lunch. Instead, Jason now sits at the cool table, which is controlled by a bully named Dallas, who delights in tormenting Georges. It would be unfair to give anything away, but suffice it to say that Georges resolves his various issues in a way that's both ingenious and organic to the story. Original and winning. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385906654
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
1,055,863
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile:
670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Science Unit of Destiny

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 in the front, bitter in 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. It turns out that our taste buds are all alike, they can taste everything, and they're all over the place. Mr. Landau, seventh-grade science teacher, has unrolled a beaten-up poster of the ignorant tongue map, and he's explaining about how people have misunderstood the science of taste since the beginning of time.

Everyone in my class, even Bob English Who Draws, is paying attention today, because this is the first day of "How We Taste," also known as The Science Unit of Destiny. They all believe that sometime in the next ten school days, at least one person in the room is going to discover his or her own personal fate: true love or tragic death.

Yes, those are the only two choices.

Bob English Who Draws is really named Robert English. Back in fourth grade, our teacher, Ms. Diamatis, started calling him Bob English Who Draws because he was always zoning out and doodling with a superfine Sharpie. Ms. Diamatis would say, "Bob English Who Draws, can you please take us through the eights?" It was her job to make sure no one got out of fourth grade without lightning-fast multiplication skills. And everyone has called him that ever since.

While the rest of the class is hanging on every syllable that comes out of Mr. Landau's mouth, I'm looking at the false tongue poster and I'm kind of wishing it wasn't wrong. There's something nice about those thick black arrows: sour here, salty there, like there's a right place for everything. Instead of the total confusion the human tongue actually turns out to be.

People, People

It's Friday afternoon, last period. Gym. Ms. Warner and I have done our Friday high five. We do it every week, because I hate school and she hates work, and we both live for Friday.

We're playing volleyball, with an exclamation point. Ms. Warner has written it on the whiteboard outside the gym doors: Volleyball!

The combination of seeing that word and breathing the smell of the first floor, which is the smell of the cafeteria after lunch, creates some kind of echo in my head, like a faraway shout.

In the morning, the cafeteria smells fried and sweet, like fish sticks and cookies. But after lunch, it's different. There's more kid sweat and garbage mixed in, I guess. Or maybe it's just that, after lunch, the cafeteria doesn't have the smell of things to come. It's the smell of what has been.

Volleyball!

Ms. Warner is at the net with her hands on her knees, calling stuff out to kids and smiling like crazy. "Shazam!" she yells when Eliza Donan gives the ball a halfhearted bump with her forearm. "Sweet shot!"

If you didn't know Ms. Warner, you'd think there's no place she'd rather be. Maybe she's trying out my mom's famous theory that if you smile for no reason at all you will actually start to feel happy. Mom's always telling me to smile and hoping I'll turn into a smiley person, which, to be honest, is kind of annoying. But I know she's extra-sensitive about me ever since she and Dad made their big announcement that we had to sell our house. She even recorded a bunch of America's Funniest Home Videos for me to watch: my smile therapy.

I tell Mom to please save her miracle cures for the hospital. She's a nurse in the intensive-care ward, where she has to check on her patients every fifteen minutes. It's a hard habit to break, I guess, all that checking. I've been watching the shows, though, and they do make me laugh. How can you not laugh at America's Funniest Home Videos? All those wacky animals. All that falling down.

I count the number of rotations we have left in "Volleyball!" before it's my serve and then glance at the huge clock in its protective cage on the wall. I calculate a fifty-fifty chance that the dismissal bell will save me, but the next thing I know I'm in that back corner, balancing the ball on one palm and getting ready to slap it with the other.

Don't look at the ball.

Point your eyes where you want the ball to go.

But the advice in my head is useless, because time slows down until everyone's voices transform into something that sounds like underwater whale-singing.

Well, obviously "underwater," I tell myself. Where else are you going to find whales?

I should be paying attention to the ball.

Just as I'm about to smack it, I get this feeling, this premonition, that I'm going to land the ball at least somewhere on the other side of the net, maybe even in that big hole in the second row where Mandy and Gabe are being careful not to stand too close because they secretly like each other.

I'm wrong, though. The ball goes high, falls short, and hits the floor between the feet of Dallas Llewellyn, who is standing right in front of me. My serve is what is called an epic fail, and some of the girls start doing the slow clap.

Clap.

Pause.

Clap.

Pause.

Clap.

It's sarcastic clapping. You know that famous philosophical question "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Well, I have no idea, but it has to be better than the slow clap.

Ms. Warner is yelling "People! People!" like she always does when kids are mean and she has no idea what to do about it.

Dallas hands me the ball for my second try and I hit it right away, just to get it over with. This time it goes way left, out of bounds. Then the bell rings, kids fly in all directions, and the week is over.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
School Library Journal Best of Children's Books 2012

Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Books 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
“Readers will sympathize with Georges and Safer as they negotiate various familiar obstacles, but it’s the celebration that will leave them exultant.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, September 2012:
“The ending twists readers’ entire perception of the events and creates a brilliant conclusion to an insightful novel.”

Starred Review, The Horn Book, September/October, 2012:
“Stead’s spare and elegant prose, compassionate insight into the lives of young people, wry sense of humor, deft plotting, and ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and intriguing way make this much more than a mystery with a twist.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2012:
“Chock-full of fascinating characters and intelligent questions, this is as close to perfect as middle-grade novels come.”

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:
“[A] big-hearted, delightfully quirky tale…. Georges resolves his various issues in a way that’s both ingenious and organic to the story….Original and winning”

Read More

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