Tag Archives: middle grade authors

Middle Grade Monday: Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead


Middle Grade Mondays happen… well, every Monday.
See what others have posted this week on Shannon Messenger’s blog.

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You don’t need me to sing the praises of this NY Times bestseller by Newbery winner Rebecca Stead. But I’m going to anyway because it caught me off guard.

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from GoodReads:

Georges (the s is silent) has a lot going on. He’s having trouble with some boys at school, his dad lost his job and so his mum has started working all the time – and they had to sell their house and move into an apartment.

But moving into the apartment block does bring one good thing – Safer, an unusual boy who lives on the top floor. He runs a spy club, and is determined to teach Georges everything he knows. Their current case is to spy on the mysterious Mr X in the apartment above Georges. But as Georges and Safer go deeper into their Mr X plan, the line between games, lies, and reality begin to blur.

This book is a subtle and sneaky one. It started off by surrounding me with all these lovable characters, then reeled me in with its convincing 12-year-old sense of humour. I immediately related to this intelligent, thoughtful kid just trying to make it through middle school, staying out of trouble and ignoring the bullies using his mother’s philosophy of always “looking at the big picture.” (I was so like him in 7th grade.)

But his mother is missing in his life at the moment, as she has been working double shifts at the hospital since his dad lost his job. They communicate solely by scrabble pieces on his desk, he writing one before he goes to bed and she responding when she gets home from work. This is tender enough as it is… but, there’s much more to his story.

He meets an odd home-schooled kid in his apartment complex and begins to spend more and more time in his “bohemian” household. At first, I thought this was simply a quaint story about a quirky friendship taking place during this rough time in Georges’s life, but as Stead loves to do, she reveals that each boy has more going on for himself than either realizes.

This is Stead’s talent, this ability to weave a story slowly, revealing only when necessary, and at the same time tempting us along with this authentic, sympathetic voice. The authenticity arises from her amusing details, like a kid who gets nicknamed Bob English Who Draws and a painting by Seurat (who Georges is named after), which is misheard as Sir Ott.

Every story is a mystery, and hers happens to be a small mystery in the scheme of things. Ultimately, it’s about how we manage our own fears. I really appreciated the ending; it was satisfying without being too pat. And the hero solves his own bully problem in a clever, even uplifting, manner.

That’s all I’ll say about that, because I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t gotten to it yet. It’s just too sweet.

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Middle Grade Mondays: Advice for Male Middle Grade Authors?

(NOTE: we are in syndication for the next several weeks here at The Accidental Novelist because life is so full of awesome right now that Danika is really, really preoccupied. She will definitely respond to comments, though. And has for some reason started writing in 3rd person.)

reposted from Sept 2011

Here’s something interesting I hadn’t thought about until recently. How do male middle grade authors cultivate a young female audience without running up against the “creep factor”?

It might sound funny, but in this day and age, we are quite protective of our young ladies when it comes to interacting with adult males.

When I was at the SCBWI conference, a debut male author asked an agent how he could cultivate an online social fanbase of young girls without coming across as a creep. Her answer was “If it sounds creepy, it probably is creepy.” We all kind of agreed, but then I thought about it. I have young girls in my social networks, generally friends of the family or ex-students, and I sometimes communicate with them directly with no parental supervision. Yes, the parents all know who I am, but would I be able to do this if I were a man?

My male publisher once told me that when he’s at book events he’s always looking out for 10 year old girls because that’s our demographic for my fantasy series. But he says he never approaches them because he doesn’t want to come across as some creep. Whereas I, particularly at festivals, haven’t thought twice about approaching a girl. Most of the time they’re with their parents anyway.

I told my publisher the best thing to do would be to approach the parent and talk about his author and her book (as opposed to himself). The parents are the ones who ultimately buy the books anyway.

Has anyone else ever come up against this? Does anyone have any creative solutions or advice?

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