Nothing But the Truth

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by Avi. Novel. 192 pages. Grades 5-9.
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Review

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To begin a discussion of the Bill of Rights you can use Avi's novel Nothing But the Truth. It shouldn't take more than one class period to read it aloud to fifth or sixth graders. Subtitled, "A Documentary Novel," this book is almost guaranteed to provoke discussion, certainly the incident around which it revolves did so. We follow the plot through a series of documents: memos, journal-entries, newspaper and talk show stories and written conversations as a simple incident grows. The truth, as I see it, is that a ninth grade student, annoyed by a teacher's perceived inflexibility, decides to annoy her in turn by humming the National Anthem when it is played over the loud speaker during opening exercises even though the rule states that students should "stand at respectful silent attention." The teacher, a sincere and dedicated woman, rises to the bait, and throws the kid out of her class. From then on things just grow bigger and more and more out of focus: a man running for school board grabs it as an election cause; the story is picked up by the national press; a talk show personality gets people even more roused; there are telegrams and letters to all concerned. Has free speech been violated? Whose? The results are calamitous for both teacher and student. Who's wrong?

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Activities

  • Create a timeline of books related to US history. How many of those books are about people whose rights were violated?
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Related Books

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    Grades 3 - 9
    It's Our World Too: Young People Who Are Making a Difference: How They Do It--How You Can, Too! by Phillip Hoose. Nonfiction. 176 pages.
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    So much of the news of young people in our society is sad that it was fun to read It's Our World Too. I thought by the cover that these were all young adults but the chapter that moved me most was about a class of first and second graders in Sweden who bought a rain forest. The writing is personal, emotional and so skillful that the young people cited here seem real and not too good to be true. Their projects were/are worthwhile, possible to emulate, and inspiring. This is a book to hand to students and teachers who are reading about the environment, the homeless, the handicapped and the disenfranchised and are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about any and all of these problems. Read More.

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