Tuesday, May 15, 2018

MG Realistic Fiction Review: Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley, Illustrated by Dan Santat

35791906Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley, Illustrated by Dan Santat 
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux 
Number of pages:  304
Publishing:  June 5th, 2018
Source:  Edelweiss Plus

Opening Line:  "Fredrick Fredrickson was thinking about strawberry daiquiris when the dodgeball slammed into his face."  

Summary from Goodreads:  
"Frederick Frederickson has a food-chain theory about life.  There are lions, like the school bully.  Gazelles, like the bullied kids.  There are meerkats, and the fleas that live on the butts of meerkats.  Frederick's a flea.  Fifth grade is off to a terrible start when Frederick is sent to a disciplinary camp for troublesome boys. His fellow troop mates—Nosebleed, Specs, The Professor, and little-yet-lethal Ant Bite—are terrifying. But in between trust-building exercises and midnight escape attempts, a tenuous friendship grows between them. Which is lucky, because a Category 5 hurricane is coming and everyone will have to work together—lions and fleas alike—to survive!"

 10-year-old Frederick likes hanging out with Raj and Joel, but lately, he's been doubting whether they've ever truly been his friends.  Sometimes, Joel and Raj make Frederick feel like he's a loser, who could blame Freddie for not wanting to be referred to as a "flea on a meerkats butt?"  Just once he'd like to excel at something, even if it's just a stupid dodgeball game with Devin.  Unfortunately, things don't go as expected when he takes a ball to the face.  To make matter's worse, Fredrick's annual Labor Day vacation, a family cruise, has been canceled on account of Hurricane Hernando.   With nothing better to do, Frederick begrudgingly goes to Joel's birthday party, where Joel teases him by offering his dad's motorboat to Frederick as his next cruise ship.  Having had enough of Joel's antics, Freddie hops in the boat and pretends to take off.  Freddie's prank goes a bit too far when he loses the motorboat engine and oars, has to fend off an alligator and then drifts away only to land at camp Omigoshee, a transformative camp for boys.  

Lions and Liars has been described as Holes meets The Goonies, I quite like the comparison it drew me to want to read the story.  Plus that cover, no way could I pass this up.  Yet,  I 'd take the counselor's at Omigoshee over Camp Green Lake any day.  A lot less work and no digging holes.  Well there is swimming and rope climbing, and both head counselors seem to emphasize character and discipline, but at least their methods are different.  Frederick is pretty much a lonely but good kid who follows the rules and listens to his teachers.  Which makes the story quite amusing when he lands at a camp whose main mission is to transform "bad boys," a fact that Freddie somehow overlooked while he was busy eating pancakes.  The first person Freddie encounters while at camp is Benjamin, a counselor who assumes Frederick is Dashiell "Dash" Blackwood, a missing camper.  Dash seems to have a troubling past and most of the other campers fear him based purely on him being notoriously bad.  Ben's mistake gives Freddie the perfect place to hideout until the trouble awaiting him back home blows over, and gives him an opportunity to reinvent himself as Dash.  Freddie doesn't mind his recent popularity and gets along well enough with his cabin mates Nosebleed,  Ant Bite, The Professor, and Specs, that is until the real Dash shows up.  

I really liked Freddie, what he wants most is to have friends who want to hang out with him, who'd call him over to sit with them at lunch.  Freddie's shortfall is that he makes a lot of assumptions about the other boys, that somehow he is the good person among all the bad.  A "minnow amongst sharks."  He's not the kind of kid who would get into trouble by breaking into the head counselor's office, he thinks that's something only kids like Ant Bite would do.  What he comes to eventually realize is that there is the potential for good and bad in everyone, and he never anticipated that he would be the one treating his new friends the same way that his friends back home treated him.  The difference now is that Freddie knows the importance of saying you're sorry and asking his friends for forgiveness.  Overall, this is a delightful story with a lovely message that with true friends you don't need to prove your worth.  I really enjoyed this great
 bunch of boys with their amusing nicknames, they're so entertaining, diverse and unique.   I really wish my review copy had the finished illustrations by Dan Santat, but I will be looking for Lions and Liars after it releases to check them out.   


  1. As soon as I heard the camp and nickname parts I thought of Holes! I like the comparison of Holes and Goonies. Makes me want to read this one right there!

    Sounds like a fun book. Your review has me very curious. This camp seems way easier than Camp Greenlake. :)