- Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30263-4 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30265-8 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–7
One day at school, a dodgeball to the face drives home to Frederick Frederickson that he’s not one of life’s victors (lions, as his friend defines the school ecology) and sets him on an accidental journey of discovery. In a flustered attempt to redefine himself, Frederick commandeers a boat he can’t quite pilot and aimlessly floats down a stream to Camp Omigoshee, where he adopts the identity of Dashiell “Dash” Blackwood, a presumably cool kid who hasn’t yet arrived. Frederick-as-Dash quickly falls in with a group of young ne’er-do-wells—including the ill-tempered Specs, who loves snatching eyeglasses off of faces and breaking them—and takes a bit longer than the reader to realize that this is a camp for bad boys. Eventually the real Dash shows, and an absurd series of events—a prank leading to some local zoo animals being released, and a flash flood putting the camp in danger—forces Frederick to face his namesake, his lies, and an actual lion, in a clever bit of narrative maneuvering. Beasley’s humor and knack for wordplay effectively leaven this story of a precocious boy who rejects what he isn’t but struggles with figuring out what he is. By novel’s end, Beasley delivers several laughs as well as an earnest and invaluable exploration of what it means to be a “troubled” boy. Reviewed from an unillustrated galley.