Monday: Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Oh Rebecca Stead, I love the sense of whimsy that you bring to your writing, it really shoots me straight back to the willow tree that I would sit in as a child, working my way through the pages of my favourite stories. What I loved about When You Reach Me and again in Liar and Spy is that there’s a whimsy without any sense of speaking down to the reader – making both of these books just as perfect for older readers (like me) to read as a bite sized fable as they are for upper primary readers starting to find their confidence reading alone.

Liar and Spy is a trip down memory lane to the mystery genre. Remember that? Harriet the Spy, Trixie Belden, The Three Investigators and The Hardy Boys? A time when deaths weren’t described and analysed in graphic enough detail to be classified as crime and when any scary bits were generally wrapped up with enough time to be home for dinner. This and Lili Wilkinson’s recent A Pocketful of Eyes are the few titles I can think of recently that really capture that ‘mystery’ genre well, rather than veering into the darker territories of crime, thriller or horror.

Georges is avoiding plenty of things in his life, assuming that one day he’ll be able to leave it all behind him. He get’s picked on at school? Doesn’t matter, things will be better at home. Things are a little awkward at home since his mum’s always working late at the hospital and his dad lost his job so they’ve had to leave behind their family home and move to a smaller apartment? ……Well. Georges will find a way to get through it.

The way comes to him in the form of a sign that reads ‘Spy Club Meeting – TODAY’. Georges decides to go along. It’s not like he has anything else to do. He becomes the sidekick to Safer, a spy with plenty of theories about disappearing parrots and the mysterious Mr X. For the first time Georges has friends – Safer, Candy, and even the eccentric Bob English from school. But Georges isn’t the only one avoiding things, and sooner or later everyone is going to have to ‘fess up and face up.

I loved this book. It’s one of those books that makes you remember how fun it can be to read – to be reading for no other reason than the pure joy of it all. It makes me wish for summer, a tall willow tree, a pile of books, and nothing to do but read.

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