While perusing the "new books" shelf at the library a couple of weeks ago, I came across Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen...
My first introduction to Paulsen was Hatchet a few years ago. It was my contribution to the book club Jeff and I have... I had heard good things about the book and wanted to share my love of juvenile fiction with Jeff. I figured the subject matter would at least intrigue him. We both really liked that book and last year we suggested it to Alex and he read it.
This past summer, I read several other Paulsen books. They were unlike Hatchet, and more along the lines of Liar, Liar. I read Lawnboy (suggested this one to Alex and he read it too), Lawnboy Returns and Notes from the Dog. Actually, I guess Notes from the Dog doesn't really fit into that group, but it is very different from Hatchet as well. Liar, Liar, Lawnboy and Lawnboy Returns all teach lessons in a humorous way. The Lawnboy books are about money and, of course, Liar, Liar is about lying.
I didn't love this book as much as I have some of Paulsen's other books, but I do think it's a valuable read. I like the lesson about lying and I like how things don't necessarily all come together neatly in the end when the main character comes clean about his lies. He learns that there are consequences to his actions and things aren't all set right with just an apology. Damage is done when you lie and it's better to not do it in the first place rather than think you can fix things if you're caught. And to be honest, you'll almost always get caught. That's a concept that escaped me in my youth... that even if someone doesn't directly call you out, chances are, that they still know that you were lying.
Alex and I have had some conversations about this lately. When he got the audition notice for the opera, the paperwork states that you "must be available for all rehearsals and performance to be considered" and it includes a list of all possible rehearsals and performances. The rehearsals started the very next day after the audition. Alex already had plans to go out of town with Jeff for the weekend (the MSU game). So, what do we do? Do we go on with the audition and spring this information on them after he's cast? Do we call in "sick" the next morning? Or, do we tell them up front, before the audition, that he has one conflict over the course of rehearsals and performances? The last option sounds easy, except for knowing that they may tell us that missing that one rehearsal is a dealbreaker (especially since it was the very first rehearsal) and he should, therefore, not audition. We decided that calling in sick the next morning would be the easiest answer, but was it the right answer? In the end, we decided that we should be upfront about his conflict and deal with whatever answer we got. Given that Alex has worked with them before on two other shows and has previously never missed a rehearsal or a performance, they said that it was okay for him to audition knowing that he would miss that one rehearsal. Alex felt good about the decision, knowing that he could be upfront about where he was that day instead of having to tell more lies to cover it. They also continue to know that Alex is a responsible kid who knows what he's committing to and follows through. I know this is easy to say since it all worked out, but I'm not sure how happy he would be knowing that he told a lie in order to be able to audition. He genuinely likes being part of the productions and cares about what they think of him there. Also, life is about making choices and you can't always have it all. With this situation, he had to decide about which was more important to him, going to the football game or being in the opera. To him, going to the game with his dad was most important. He really wanted to be part of the opera, but was willing to take the chance of not being able to be part of it in order to go to the game. It's a tough lesson for kids (and some adults...lol!)... but it's a necessary one.
Anyway, back to the book, again, not my favorite Paulsen book... but one that's worth reading for the message it contains!