Monday, November 5, 2007

No Talking by Andrew Clements

I recommend this book for: grade 3-5

Did you love Frindle? Then you might like this book - or alternatively, you might hate it, because the story is very much the same. The basic premise is this: a group of 5th graders who are called "the Unshushables" by their teachers because of how much and how loudly they talk hold a contest to see who can stay quiet the longest - boys or girls. It all starts because Dave reads about Ghandi keeping silence one day per week to order his mind and wonders if it's possible. When loudmouth Lynsey's chattering breaks his concentration, he challenges the whole fifth grade to the speaking battle of the sexes. The teachers flip out because their authority is being undermined, but then they start to realize that it's not so bad, the kids are learning, and their classroom experience is actually improved. Everyone learns from the experience and they all become better friends and human beings.

Perhaps I'm being a little too snarky - the concept is absolutely brilliant, even if the reactions of the adults are ridiculously exaggerated in every case - but then, I'm sure adult behavior does seem that way to kids sometimes. There are a lot of funny things in the book - my favorite being Clements' astute observation that "a cootie by any other name is still a cootie" - but his omniscient narrative voice performed the double function of distancing the reader from the action of the story and really getting on my nerves. The device meant that the reader is always told about how the characters are feeling, never allowed to see it, and he kept saying things like "I could keep telling you about this, or I could jump and talk about that, but instead, we're going to jump to this other place, where such and such is happening. But there's more. There's always more." Not entirely my cup of tea, but I'll still recommend it to kids who want stories about school or semi-realistic fiction. A fairly enjoyable book.

Praise from the pros.

** One other, completely unrelated thing that bothered me is that I'm completely unable to tell from the cover illustration which one is a girl and which is a boy. Is it just me? This bothers me about Franklin's parents, too.

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