Mock Newbery 2019 discussion

Liar & Spy
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Book of the Month 2013 > September Read - Liar & Spy

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message 1: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (Sunnie) | 422 comments Mod
Rebecca Steads When You Reach Me won the Newbery in 2010. Do you think Liar & Spy could be her second win?


Marie (MarieDeAngelo) | 7 comments I don't feel that this book is strong enough. I felt manipulated because it took so long for the story to climax and it wasn't satisfying to me. I couldn't buy into the whole premise. Maybe I need to reread.


message 3: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann | 28 comments Marie wrote: "I don't feel that this book is strong enough. I felt manipulated because it took so long for the story to climax and it wasn't satisfying to me. I couldn't buy into the whole premise. Maybe I nee..."

Perhaps feeling manipulated was exactly the reaction the author was going for, since that is how Georges feels.


Jennifer | 43 comments I really enjoyed this book - liked it more than When you Reach Me. I thought the kid voices were very real.


message 5: by Liz (new)

Liz (HisSheep) | 7 comments Have just put this one on reserve at my local library ... will check back in when I have something to say. ;o)


Barbie | 13 comments I listened to this on audio book and really enjoyed the reading/voice which can make all the difference for me on whether I like the book or not. I think I also enjoyed this book better than When You Reach Me but it's hard to compare since they are so different. I like that Rebecca Stead doesn't try to take on too many plots, the kids voices and problems are real and she ties up loose ends.Very satisfying read and I'm still thinking about it.


Lisa Nagel | 67 comments I did not like this one as much as When You Reach Me. It seemed to take too long to get going. I also did not seem to be invested in the characters or their spy club. I could not really connect with Georges even though I felt I wanted to, and though the ending was interesting, it felt like it took too long to get there.


message 8: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann | 28 comments Like many here, I didn't like it as much as I loved When You Reach Me, though I doubted that I would because that book hit multiple of my personal reading buttons. Luckily the committee can't compare books from different years!

SPOILERS abound! I thought the handling of Safer and his game, and his genuine surprise that Georges is seriously upset about it all being a game was pitch perfect. First off, Safer is not the most astute at interpersonal stuff. Secondly, he seemed to really think that everyone involved knew that at some level it was just a game. It reminded me of when I was a kid. The neighborhood gang of kids decided that a seldom-used community building was haunted by a witch. We knew we were just making the stories up, but that didn't stop us from being truly and genuinely scared when we had to walk past the building alone.

A strange note: Georges repeatedly comments about what a weird name Candy has. I had two Candy's in my grade when I was in school, and there was another in my sister's class. It's a little odd about how she got her name, but the name itself is well established (unlike Safer or Pigeon and neither of those names is singled out as odd.)

One sour note: why is that homeschoolers are almost always portrayed as being asocial weirdos, and why is it that whenever they do (inevitably!) go to school it's heralded as major character growth and a hugely positive "step forward" in their lives?


Jess (jessmonster) | 80 comments This is one of my favorites so far this year! Here's what I said in my initial review:

"It was so easy to slip into this story. Rebecca Stead does an excellent job with world-building, which is a concept I usually think of more with fantasy novels, but I think it applies to any story where a sense of place is crucial to the story. Here, it's an apartment building. The whole story takes place within walking distance of Georges' new building. It's very much about discovering a new place, a place that maybe you'd rather not be, but which turns out to have its own rewards.

The story is also layered beautifully - lots of little things that add up to something bigger. There's a hint of mystery, developing friendships, contrasts between now and then, school bullies, family dynamics. It all ends up feeling necessary."

To respond to Ann's point about homeschoolers - as a former homeschooler, I can't say I've ever noticed this trend. Also, I found it completely realistic that Safer would be homeschooled. He's not strange because he's homeschooled, he's homeschooled because he isn't comfortable in public places. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I felt like the 'step forward' was more about his willingness to leave the building than it was about actually going to school.


Jennifer | 43 comments Jess - great write-up! Well said. I agree with what you said about the layering.


message 11: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann | 28 comments Jess wrote: " as a former homeschooler, I can't say I've ever noticed this trend.."

I only noticed it because I was making a list of books about homeschoolers and I could only find one (Surviving the Applewhites) in which the homeschoolers did not eventually go back to school and/or the entire plot was about the kid Developing As A Person by going back to school. Off the top of my head: Wonder, Ida B., Schooled, Homeschool Liberation League. There were more but I can't remember now.

One thing I did like was Safer's resentment towards his older brother, who had decided to go to school.

I may have been overreacting a little. I agree that Safer was not depicted as weird because he was a homeschooler, more that he's just Safer, who happens to also be homeschooled. I didn't think they were homeschooling because Safer was phobic, but rather because they were "smart bohemians" who did that sort of thing, and then Pigeon wanted to explore other options.


message 12: by Liz (new)

Liz (HisSheep) | 7 comments Gotta ?

Just picked this one up from the library tonight, and I thought it wasn't being discussed until 9/15. Since I already see some discussion, how does this group work? ;o)


message 13: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann | 28 comments Liz wrote: "Gotta ?

Just picked this one up from the library tonight, and I thought it wasn't being discussed until 9/15. Since I already see some discussion, how does this group work? ;o)"


I"m not sure why you thought it wasn't being discussed, since the top of the main page says discussion will go from September 1st to September 30. It's an ongoing discussion, so jump in as soon as you've finished the book. Many people don't join the conversation until the middle of the month or later because they need to get their hands on a book. Others have already read the book or read it in one sitting and then can't wait to talk about it. Some people dont' find the group until we've finished discussing a particular title, so we'll have comments months later. Everyone is welcome to talk at any time.


Franki Sibberson | 31 comments I loved this book but it isn't on my Newbery list really. I felt like it was far more accessible to younger middle-grade readers. Lots to think and talk about. Appropriately complex for this age group. I loved the story and the characters and am excited to share it with my kids. I am not sure why, but this one isn't on my Newbery list even though I loved it.


message 15: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (Sunnie) | 422 comments Mod
Liz wrote: "Gotta ?

Just picked this one up from the library tonight, and I thought it wasn't being discussed until 9/15. Since I already see some discussion, how does this group work? ;o)"


You are welcome to write about it whenever you finish. I love an ongoing book discussion that makes you think about a book long after you have read it.


message 16: by Mary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mary | 7 comments Marie wrote: "I don't feel that this book is strong enough. I felt manipulated because it took so long for the story to climax and it wasn't satisfying to me. I couldn't buy into the whole premise. Maybe I nee..."

I totally agree with the manipulated feel!


Susie (SusiePurdue) | 18 comments I just finished as well. With so much build up for this (one of only 3 books to have received starred/top reviews from all 7 major review sources), I was a little disappointed. I guess I need to think of the audience, and how students might enjoy some of the twists, but with this being the third major book I've read in the past two months with an "unreliable" narrator, I'm a little tired of being manipulated as well.


message 18: by Sheila (last edited Oct 18, 2012 07:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sheila Welch (SheilaKellyWelch) | 28 comments I finished the book a few days ago but was attending a symposium on Ethics and Children's Literature, which fits right in with all these unreliable narrators. Actually, I felt that this aspect of the book was the weakest part, and although I really liked the book overall, I am surprised that it's getting such rave reviews in the traditional journals. The problem for me was that I didn't get a strong sense of Georges's emotional connection with the missing member of the family. His disconnect doesn't seem realistic to me. I started guessing divorce and death and the "real" problem didn't seem traumatic enough, and I wondered about physical contact and exposure ... (I am being unclear to avoid spoilers.) I did like the setting and the school scenes plus Bob English Who Draws was a good character. I think the cleverness of the plot overwhelmed the story and prevented the sort of emotional attachment I would have appreciated.


Jennifer | 43 comments What does "unreliable narrataor" mean? I guess I could Google it...


message 20: by Susie (last edited Sep 18, 2012 03:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susie (SusiePurdue) | 18 comments Jennifer: They are not necessarily telling the truth, or the whole story.


Jennifer | 43 comments Thanks! Interesting that I've never really considered this. Why is it a bad thing? Doesn't it reveal something about the character, though? Kind of reminds me of many "twist" plots, like Gone Girl?


Chelsea | 5 comments That Georges was an unreliable narrator was what enticed me to keep reading--I couldn't wait to discover the truth about his mother. However, I was extremely disappointed with the ending. As Sheila said, it just wasn't enough for me. I was waiting for it all to come together like Stead did in When You Reach Me and was let down. Maybe we shouldn't be comparing the two books, but I was just expecting more. I actually enjoyed Stead's first novel, First Light, more than this one. Definitely not a Newbery contender in my opinion.


Susie (SusiePurdue) | 18 comments Jennifer wrote: "Thanks! Interesting that I've never really considered this. Why is it a bad thing? Doesn't it reveal something about the character, though? Kind of reminds me of many "twist" plots, like Gone G..."

Funny you should mention that, because Gone Girl is one of the other with unreliable narrators that I've read. The other one was a bit different twist, Code Name Verity, which is by far the best book I've read this year! So, I guess it doesn't always bother me. Sometimes it makes me think harder, and I didn't mind in CNV.


message 24: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo Sorrell (jothebookgirl) | 188 comments This one never engaged me although I read it pretty quickly. I don't see a Newbery out of this one at all.


message 25: by Margaret (last edited Sep 21, 2012 03:27PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Margaret Kensinger-Klopfer | 31 comments I really had a slow start with this book, but couldn't put it down by the end. A lot of the "surprises" in the book were pretty predictable. I could tell the mother was either sick or on her death bed pretty early in the story. It was pretty obvious that Safer was making up a lot of his spying activity when he clearly couldn't leave the apartment building. I wish that some of the story aspects were explained a little more (was Safer an agoraphobe? did Georges dad have OCD? what was actually wrong with his mom?) but I suppose that a lot of that is pretty realistic to the way kids process the world. I enjoyed the school scenes with Georges much more than the scenes with Safer and Candy. I also really enjoyed the relationship that Stead builds between Georges and his dad, even if I would have liked to have delved a little deeper. There are not a lot of stories with such great father/son relationships that are done in a realistic way.
Some of the story elements reminded me of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Overall, I would say that this was a solid effort by Rebecca Stead. An enjoyable read, if a tad predictable, but not on par with the careful craft of When you Reach Me.


Laurel | 11 comments Loved "Bob English Who Draws."


Becky (Harperreads) | 26 comments I must admit that I am not a "literary" reader. I read for enjoyment - not to analyze the book. As such I guess I am in many ways a naive reader. Even though I knew there were twists in this book, I did not guess them before they happened. I wondered about the mother, but took Georges at face value when he talked about her working double shifts. I connected to the school scenes, and really liked how this subplot came out in the end. I was not expecting Safer's game. I am a little double minded about whether I like this book. It is well written and I do think things were explained at the end, but I am not as ready to forgive Safer as Georges was. Like Laurel, I loved "Bob English Who Draws" and how he was an important element at the end of the book. As a just finished this book, maybe I will repost when I have sat with it a bit.


message 28: by Jana (new)

Jana Smith | 1 comments I do not see this book as a Newbery contender. However, seeing the posts about the "unreliable narrator" helped me to see this as a very good book to use to explore that concept. Thanks!


message 29: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo Sorrell (jothebookgirl) | 188 comments Jana wrote: "I do not see this book as a Newbery contender. However, seeing the posts about the "unreliable narrator" helped me to see this as a very good book to use to explore that concept. Thanks!"

I felt the same way. I actually never heard that term.


Mari Anne | 25 comments Recently finished it and while I enjoyed it, I didn't enjoy it as much as "When You Reach Me". Interesting concept.. the "unreliable narrator". I guess I always just thought of that as just being a plot twist. A really good plot twist. I have always enjoyed books that aren't quite what they seem. It has got to be really hard to write something like that without giving it away too early. Kudos to Stead for doing that really well.


message 31: by Kristen (last edited Sep 27, 2012 11:03AM) (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (Sunnie) | 422 comments Mod
I thought this was well written, engaging and that kids will like it. Her title was brilliant. I can see future English classes writing about who is the liar and who is the spy. The scrabble tiles were cute and the game was interesting but I really enjoyed Georges moments at school. Here is where the middle school children will be able to relate to the characters and truly feel part of the story.

I have also enjoyed the discussion about the concept of "unreliable narrator."


Holly (Hollymm) | 25 comments Ann - excellent point about homeschooling! I, too, think it gets a bad rap. I'm a public school teacher, but I highly respect the homeschoolers I know, and they're children are not "weird." They're amazing!


Holly (Hollymm) | 25 comments Great discussion about an "unreliable narrator." I'm going to bring that up with my 4th graders since we're talking a lot about point of view with Wonder. A great picture book to illustrate that concept is Voices in the Park.


Hilary (hilarylombardo) | 26 comments I really enjoyed this book. I started reading it yesterday, read it every moment I got, then couldn't wait to wake up this morning so I could finish it! Both Georges and Safer grabbed me as characters. I like their quirkiness, and I kept picturing Safer as a mini version of the new Sherlock - he obviously had some Sherlockian traits like observing small details. I also really appreciated how Georges came up with a system on his own to deal with bullying. To me the overarching theme of this story was friendship, and what friendship is about. It is a big part of what Georges is struggling with and the biggest problem that is resolved at the end. His mother is certainly a problem as well, and although that is the twist at the end, I felt that Georges growth really came from the fact that he brought a group of kids together and reminded them that they are never alone - himself included. I'm not sure if it's a Newbery, I can't decide, but something certainly worth discussing.


Susie (SusiePurdue) | 18 comments Hilary-nice points, and I certainly agree with you that it's worth discussing.


message 36: by Holly (new)

Holly | 30 comments Holly wrote: "Great discussion about an "unreliable narrator." I'm going to bring that up with my 4th graders since we're talking a lot about point of view with Wonder. A great picture book to illustrate that ..."

Who is the author of Voices in the Park?


message 37: by Jess (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jess (jessmonster) | 80 comments Holly wrote: "Holly wrote: "Who is the author of Voices in the Park? ..."

It's by Anthony Browne.


Lorelie | 4 comments I finally read the September book. I agree with most I don't necessarily feel this is a Newbery. But it was an enjoyable story and I felt for Georges and Safer. I know several of my students who will enjoy this story.


Kristine (Kristine_A) | 71 comments I just finished this book last night. As far as the writing I feel like the voice and the tone were excellently done. I felt like responding to things exactly as Georges would. I liked that the plot was steady and didn't have too many distractions or things going on. I liked thought the betrayal was well written and truly felt. The explanation of the mom in the hospital - when it was revealed felt a little weak. Like it was forced way to bring it up and resolve it. I loved the interactions at school and how Georges figured out how to deal with his problem on his own. I don't know why but one of my favorite parts of the book was when the PE teacher admits it's pretty much her dream job. I'll have to think about why that is some more.


message 40: by Leigh (new) - rated it 1 star

Leigh (LeighB) Well, I guess I just don't get this author. I didn't like When You Reach Me and I don't think I am going to finish this one either. Dull, plodding...bleah.


alisonwonderland | 2 comments I adored Liar & Spy - but I'm doubtful that Rebecca Stead will receive the Newbery two years in a row.


Chelsea | 5 comments She didn't win it last year! Jack Gantos did...


alisonwonderland | 2 comments Chelsea wrote: "She didn't win it last year! Jack Gantos did..."

Oops. Apparently I've lost two years of my life. Time flies ... :)


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