Review Blog

Nov 01 2012

Liar and spy by Rebecca Stead

cover image

Text Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781921922947.
(Ages: 9+) Highly recommended. Award winning author of When you reach me, Rebecca Stead has once again written a beautiful and memorable story. Georges (with a 's')moves from the home that his architect father has designed into a Brooklyn apartment building. There he meets Safer, a boy who drinks coffee and acts like a spy. Together the two start to watch the apartment of Mr X but Georges becomes increasingly uncomfortable about spying on the man. Meanwhile at school he is facing constant harassment by the school bullies, Dallas and Carter and life is tough. Stead is a clever, clever writer. She leaves a series of little clues that by the end of the story build up to one big picture that leaves the reader thinking that 'Yes, I should have known that' or 'How did I miss that?'
Her characters are quirky and very believable. Georges' loneliness, moving into a new place and missing a close friend at school, allows him to become involved in the machinations of Safer, an observant boy who spends much of his time watching wild parrots and devising wild schemes of spying on his neighbour Me X. At school, Bob English Who Draws and the class members are also well rounded characters.
The theme of bullying in handled in a thought provoking way. Georges' mother always says to look at the big picture (pg 186) and that is how Georges initially tries to handle the teasing. However when his father finds out what is happening he tells Georges that there are times to act now and that this is one of them. Georges is a clever and creative boy and with the help of Bob English Who Draws, comes up with a unique way to solve the problem.
Humour threads through the whole book so that I often found myself with a smile on my face as Georges makes his singular observations about what is happening. There are moments of sadness too, when I had a tear in my eye.
This is a book that adults can savour and one that should be promoted to children.
Pat Pledger

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