To gear up for what is now officially the holiday shopping season, we’re highlighting titles on the blog this week that we and independent booksellers across the country are particularly fond of (and there are quite a few selections, compiled neatly in this brilliant list, if you’d like to take a look.) Sharing our love of these titles is the best way we know how to say Thanks for Shopping Indie this holiday season, and all year long.
We had a lot of fun hosting Rebecca Stead while on tour for Liar & Spy (she made the trip with David Levithan, another one of our favorite authors.) Stead’s previousnovel for Middle Grade readers, When You Reach Me, was honored with a Newbery Medal. Liar & Spy tells the story of George, a seventh grader who moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and is recruited by a twelve year old in the building to help him spy on Mr. X, who lives in an apartment upstairs. What is a lie? What is a game? Stead captures the turbulent experience of being a pre-teen.
Liar & Spy can already be found on many Best-Of lists, including School Library Journal Best of Children’s Books 2012, Publishers Weekly Best of Children’s Books 2012, and Kirkus Reviews Best of Children’s Books 2012. Bookselling This Week caught up with her recently and has a great Q&A we really enjoyed. The full conversation is available on their website. Here’s an excerpt:
BTW: One of the first things that struck me about Liar & Spy was the uniqueness of the characters’ names! How did you arrive at them, and what is the significance of having characters that, as a function of your narrative, name themselves?
REBECCA STEAD: Strangely, I didn’t do any of that by design. As I remember it, the names came first, and the story developed later. I mostly don’t know my story when I start out. (Where did the names come from in the first place, you ask? I don’t know that either.)
BTW: If you had been raised by “really smart bohemians” like Safer’s parents, what name do you think you would have chosen for yourself?
RS: Well, it would have been my parents’ interpretation of who I was as a very young kid. Maybe they would have called me “Cheerio.” Not because I was cheerful, but because I liked cereal. And still do.
BTW: During the course of the book, it seems that Georges and Safer take turns being the liar and being the spy. Was this intentional? What was the process of building this type of complexity into your characters like?
RS: It was intentional after a while. My first draft is about generating material, and every other draft is about crafting it: developing whatever seems to be working well, cutting away what has died, and discovering what connects the different threads of the story. Deceit, games, rules, lies — these ideas came up in several places, and once I saw that, I tried to create layers, or echoes. That’s usually the best part of writing for me.
BTW: Middle school can be a turbulent time for kids, and you really capture this intensity in Liar & Spy. How do you approach writing for this age group? What are some of the specific challenges and rewards of writing for tweens?
RS: Writing for pre-teens is, in a word, fantastic. Kids at this age are ready to wrap their minds around huge questions, and they’re open to all kinds of ideas. The scope of what they’re wrestling with is pretty impressive — lots of small stuff, lots of big stuff, lots of shifts in perspective. I think I’m pretty well suited to writing for these kids because I have strong memories from that time of life, and of what books meant to me then.
Thanks for Shopping Indie! For more picks from BookPeople and independent booksellers across the country, visit our website.