Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-2015

Resources for the TBA Nominees

Liar & Spy


Liar and Spy

Liar & Spy
by Rebecca Stead

Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

Readers Theater Script – Liar & Spy (PDF)


Rebecca Stead homepage biography:

Rebecca Stead blog:

Rebecca Stead biography:

Georges Seurat biography:

Georges Seurat homepage:

Georges Seurat portfolio:

Taste areas on the human tongue:

Are you a supertaster?:

How to sharpen your powers of observation:

Let’s test your powers of observation:

How to play the liar’s card game:

How to create spy disguises for kids:

How to make face disguises:

How to create disguises:

Printable spy disguises:

If you were asked to spy on someone where you live, would you? Why or why not?

If a “friend” broke into your  apartment to leave you a message, would you still talk to him/her and be friends?

If you found out everything you had done for a friend for a long period of time was based on a lie, what would you do?

If your parents allowed you to choose your own name, would you choose to change your name and if so, what name would you choose and why. In the book Safer’s parents let him and his sister choose their own names. They did not already have names, so they were not changing names but choosing names. Safer and his sister chose names that had to do with their personalities and interests. If you chose a name having to do with your personality or interests, what would it be and why?


Spies have to be good liars. See who is a good liar in your group. Have students play the liar’s card game. Who was the best liar? Discuss tells. Tells are facial and body language clues such as tics, smiles, looking off, etc. Directions are found in the website list.

Do the supertaster test. Each student will tell what kinds of foods they like to eat and whether they are a picky eater. Then follow the directions found on the website list above.  This is a fun activity and kids like to have their tongue dyed blue. Students could then have family members do the test and see if the types of tasters run in families.

Have students create a persona. They will need to come up with a name, job, background information for who they will be. The disguise website has good ideas on how to disguise yourself. The Printable spy disguises website is excellent. It has printable ties, glasses, etc.

Have students make a pointillism picture. Discuss how putting blue and yellow dots next to each other will be perceived as green. Have students draw their picture first. Then give students paint and Q-tips. Have students color their pictures by putting dots close to each other but not touching. For older students you may give them only the primary colors so they will have to put the two color next to each other but not touching so from a distance it will appear to be the secondary color. This can also be done with colored pencils, crayons, bingo painters, etc.

Powers of observation game. Have students pair up and ask them to ask each other questions to get to know them. After a couple of minutes have the students stand back to back and have them tell their partners’ eye color, hair color, design of print fabric on clothing, colors of clothing, type of shoes, tied or untied, etc. After everyone has answered give them a second time to talk to their partner, then do it again and see if they are more observant the second time. This can be varied by having them list or draw everything on a wall or desk, etc.

Have students improve their memory and powers of observation by playing concentration.  Concentration is played by making a set of cards with two of each kind of card. Turn the cards face down and have students take turns turning over two at a time to try to find matching pairs. Each time they match they get to take those two cards. They keep choosing until they miss a pair. Then the next person plays. When the two that are chosen are not a match the two cards are put back face down. The winner is the one with the most cards.

Use “Lets test your powers of observation” website. This is done online with different things to do on the site. This is fun and interesting.

Test your observation skills with the online test of 25 questions. The website is in the above list. Sample question is: Is the green color on the traffic light on the top, middle or bottom.  These are ordinary things we see every day.


Read front flap




Friendship, Family, Schools:

Lin, Grace. The year of the dog. Frustrated at her seeming lack of talent for anything, a young Taiwanese American girl sets out to apply the lessons of the Chinese Year of the Dog, those of making best friends and finding oneself, to her own life. (NoveList)

Character-Driven Stories:

Nielsen-Fernlund, Susin. The reluctant journal of Henry K. Larsen. After his life is shattered, Henry and his father are forced to resume their lives in a new city where in spite of Henry’s desire to remain invisible he befriends some oddball characters at school and in the apartment building. (NoveList)

Schmidt, Gary. Okay for now. While Doug struggles to be more than the thug that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, as they explore Audubon’s art. (NoveList)

Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the spy. Eleven-year-old Harriet, who wants to be a writer, writes down everything she sees, but alienates her friends in the process. (NoveList)

Helprin, Mark. A city in winter. Driven to avenge the murder of her royal parents and reclaim their lost kingdom, a daring young princess confronts the city’s conqueror, the Usurper, with the aid of two unlikely rebels. (NoveList)


Kinney, Jeff. The ugly truth. While trying to find a new best friend after feuding with Rowley, middle-school slacker Greg Heffley is warned by older family members that adolescence is a time to act more responsibly and to think seriously about his future. (NoveList)

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Lovingly Alice. Fifth grade is tumultuous for Alice as she tries to help others through the many changes occurring at home and in school, including learning about sex when Rosalind gets her period and shares a book that explains what is happening. (NoveList)

Voigt, Cynthia. Bad, badder, baddest. When sixth graders Mikey and Margalo devise a plan to prevent Mikey’s parents from getting a divorce, the two friends find their scheme foiled by a new girl at school. (NoveList)

New York City:

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the overlander. When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy. (NoveList)

Riordan, Rick. The lightning thief. After learning that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea, Percy Jackson is transferred from boarding school to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods, and becomes involved in a quest to prevent a war between the gods. (NoveList)

Potter, Ellen. Slob. Picked on, overweight genius Owen tries to invent a television that can see the past to find out what happened the day his parents were killed. (NoveList)

Selden, George. The cricket in Times Square. A country cricket falls into a picnic basket and ends up in New York City. (NoveList)

Byng, Georgia. Molly Moon’s incredible book of hypnotism. Unlucky and unloved, Molly Moon, living in a dreary orphanage in a small English town, discovers a hidden talent for hypnotism and hypnotizes her way to stardom in New York City. (NoveList)


Hunt, Elizabeth Singer. The escape of the deadly dinosaur: USA. When an eager young scientist brings a dangerous flesh-eating dinosaur to life, Jack Stalwart, a secret agent with the Global Protection Force, must capture the dinosaur before it destroys New York . (NoveList)

Greene, Stephanie. Owen Foote, super spy. Owen and his friends decide that spying on the school principal at his own house will be a fun challenge. (NoveList)

Larry, H.I. Poison island. Zac Power is on a mission on one of the world’s most dangerous islands, Poison Island. Zac Power must track down Dr. Drastic, an enemy scientist. The jungle is full of deadly plants and animals that could be useful in Dr Drastic’s evil experiments. Zac has 24 hours–and his family’s lives depend on him . succeeding! — Publisher description. (NoveList)


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. The house on the gulf. A sixteen-year-old boy arranges a house sitting job for the summer, but he starts acting strangely after his family moves in, and his sister begins to suspect they are not supposed to be there. (NoveList)

MacHale, D.J. SYLO. When everyone is quarantined on a once-peaceful island off the coast of Maine, Tucker questions a secret branch of the military claiming that residents have been infected by a deadly virus. (NoveList)

Osborne, Mary Pope. A good night for ghosts. Jack and Annie must travel back in time to New Orleans in 1915 to help a teenaged Louis Armstrong fulfill his destiny and become the “King of Jazz”. (NoveList)

Konigsburg, E.L. From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Claudia and her brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she sees a statue so beautiful, she must identify its sculptor. To find out, she must visit the statue’s former owner, the elderly Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (NoveList)


Liar and Spy. By Rebecca Stead. 2012. 208p. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.99 (9780385737432); lib. ed., $18.99 (9780385906654); e-book, $10.99 (9780375899539). Gr. 5–7. (Booklist June 1, 2012).

Stead follows her Newbery Medal winner, When You Reach Me (2009), with another story that deals with reality and perception. Seventh-grader Georges (like Seurat) is living in a new apartment in Brooklyn since the loss of his father’s job necessitated selling their house. His mother still has her job as a nurse, but now she must work double shifts. He goes to the same school, though, which is not necessarily a good thing, because he is relegated to the outsiders’ table. Having a neighbor his age, the loosely homeschooled Safer, offers some new possibilities for Georges, especially since Safer considers himself a spy and is happy to lure Georges into his games. There are two mysteries here: one concerns Georges’ mother, and the other the truth about a shady building tenant, who Safer maintains could be a murderer. Many readers will guess at least part of the truth about the first, despite the sometimes-labored effort put into concealing it. The revelation about the second will be more of a surprise and offers insight into the nature of friendship. Fresh and funny, this will speak to many children trying to find their own way.— Ilene Cooper

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Stead, Rebecca. 2012. Liar & Spy. New York: Wendy Lamb Books / Random House. Hardback: 9780385737432, Paperback: 9780375850875, Audiobook: 9780449014097, Library binding: 9780385906654, eBook: 9780375899539.

There are many changes in the life of Georges, whose father lost his job and whose family has therefore moved to a new apartment, while his mother works double shifts at the hospital and hardly sees her family. Georges quickly gets to know Safer, a boy who lives upstairs, and finds himself involved, whether he likes it or not, with Safer’s favorite pastime: spying on the rest of the building. At school, Georges is an outsider often bullied by the popular kids, and it looks like the abuse is going to come to a head soon in a legendary science project, whose results are commonly believed to foretell your destiny. Stead, author of the Newbery winner When You Reach Me (BCCB 9/09), remains both a smooth, engaging stylist and a master craftsman, who deftly fits original plot pieces together into a cohesive but often surprising whole. Both Safer and Georges, for instance, are hiding secrets, and the book drops occasional hints that there is more to their stories. That just adds to their appeal as characters, however, which is already considerable; in fact, the book overall is gifted with inimitable personalities, such as Safer’s sweets-mad little sister, Candy, and Georges’ quirky deskmate and gradual friend, Bob English Who Draws. The story also marshals those characters in a couple of glorious and inspiringly creative victories for the underdogs at school, in keeping with its general championing of thinking outside the box. Readers will sympathize with Georges and Safer as they negotiate various familiar obstacles, but it’s the celebration that will leave them exultant.

Review Code: R* — Recommended. A book of special distinction. Grades 5-7. Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, September 2012 (Vol. 66, No. 1))

Horn Book:
Liar & Spy

by Rebecca Stead
Intermediate, Middle School     Lamb/Random     185 pp.
8/12     978-0-385-73743-2     $15.99
Library ed. 978-0-385-90665-4     $18.99
e-book ed. 978-0-375-89953-9     $10.99

Life is lousy for Brooklyn seventh-grader Georges. His architect father has been laid off so they’ve had to move, and he never sees his mother now that she’s doing double shifts as an intensive-care nurse. School is no respite, what with former best friend Jason having ditched him to sit at the cool lunch table and with bully Dallas’s endless torments. And so when he meets homeschooler Safer, who lives in his new building and offers to train him as a spy, Georges figures, why not? Their target is one Mr. X, who lives on the fourth floor and, according to Safer, has been behaving in some very worrisome ways. Wild parrots, Scrabble tiles, SweeTarts, the Science Unit of Destiny, and America’s Funniest Home Videos all factor into this smart, slightly noirish tale. As she did in her Newbery winner When You Reach Me (rev. 7/09), Stead creates a rich world contained within a few city blocks. We visit candy store owner Bennie and experience his unique method of giving change, get a sense of DeMarco’s excellent pizza, and read the eccentric fortunes that come in the cookies at Yum Li’s (“Why don’t you look up once in a while? Is something wrong with your neck?”). 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. MONICA EDINGER – Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy

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


One thought on “Liar & Spy

  1. Pingback: Liar & Spy | Book Discussion Guides

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