It's nearly back to school time -- at least here in the U.S.
In honor of the season, I'm featuring a week of great middle grade and tween books.
Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a librarian or just young at heart, I hope you enjoy these great titles! You'll have new chances to enter each day, and one lucky winner will walk away with all these books/ARCs!
August 9: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
August 10: Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
August 11: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
August 13: In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
August 16: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin
August 17: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver
by Rebecca Stead
Published by Random House
on August 7, 2012
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Read my review policy/disclosure here.
My summary: Georges-with-an-s, a Brooklyn seventh grader, faces bullies, his father's downsizing, and a friend's betrayal in this charming middle grade story.
My take: When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead's 2009 Newbery award winning book, is one of my favorite middle grade books of all time -- a time travel mystery that pays homage to A Wrinkle in Time. Like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is a beautifully nuanced story about the trials and tribulations of tweendom.
I love the fact that Liar & Spy delves into the emotional life of a thirteen year-old boy, who suffers the indignities of seventh grade with a stiff upper lip. Georges and his family have to move due to his father's job loss, and George meets Safer, a kid who lives in his new building. Safer convinces Georges to join his Spy Club, and soon Georges is skulking around the hallways, spying on Mr. X, one of the boys' neighbors.
George is also bullied at school, an issue which was deftly incorporated into the book. Rebecca Stead did a great job of showing how constant harassment can really wear on a child's psyche, and how the suggestions of well-meaning adults are often misguided.
While Liar & Spy doesn't have the same kind of tour-de-force, mind-bending plot as When You Reach Me, the story does have a few surprises up its sleeve. For me, the spy plot brought to mind another of my childhood favorites, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.
One of the things I find most impressive about Rebecca Stead's books is the fact that nothing -- no theme, no image, no scene -- is ever extraneous or insignificant. Liar & Spy weaves together art (Georges is named after the pointillist painter Seurat), science (his class is studying the senses), friendship and more in a way that seems effortless.
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Note: I'll have very limited internet access over the next week, but I will read and respond to all comments when I'm back online!