(August 10, 2012)

'Liar & Spy'

By Rebecca Stead

Wendy Lamb Books, $15.99, ages 9-12

The neatest books often begin cryptically. Rebecca Stead's first chapter, titled "The Science Unit of Destiny," begins like this: "There's this totally false map of the human tongue." Seventh-grader Georges (named after painter Georges Seurat) is getting close to a science unit on taste. Georges' family is in an economic rough patch, and he's bullied at school. His parents care, but their communication strategies — tiles on a Scrabble tray — seem babyish. New apartment building neighbors — kids named Pigeon, Candy and Safer, for interesting reasons — are appealing, but are their games real or lies? Like Stead's Newbery Medal-winning "When You Reach Me," there's a mystery, and rereading the book would be a pleasure.

ctc-books@tribune.com