Book Review: No Talking


posted by Beret

Age Range:  Grades 2 to 7-ish

Last year, Gina introduced me to Andrew Clements with her review of Frindle. I read it to my kids and we were hooked…but unfortunately, we found it hard to find the right follow up from Mr. Clements.

I found Room One and Extra Credit on the library shelves, but for some unknown reason, my girls refused to check them out. We tried Lunch Money, but gave up three or four chapters into it. It was too practical. In fact, it felt as if it were written specifically for teachers to use in math class.

Note: Gina completely disagrees!  Loves this book!  Thinks it’s delightful!

We tackled A Wrinkle in Time and a couple of Jerry Spinelli books instead.

It took months before we were ready to give another Clements book a go. Something about this one caught my eye, however. It has occasional entertaining illustrations. It is smart and funny. The type is generously-sized, and the chapters are short.


The Plot:

No Talking begins as a fifth grade boy is giving his report on India–or rather, as he stands up and proceeds to not give his report. He has been intrigued by Mahatma Ghandi, and decides to try being silent for a while to see what happens. His experiment soon becomes entangled with a social meltdown between the boys and the girls that has been brewing since kindergarten. The bulk of the book then focusses on a silent contest between the fifth grade boys and girls. What unfolds is both hilarious and thought-provoking.

Why we liked it:

From the first page, I was just as invested in the story as my kids, though perhaps for different reasons. They loved the hijinks and the humanity of the characters. They responded to the suspense and to the way the kids completely confound most of the authority figures. These fifth grade students are flouting school rules, and driving most of the teachers and the Principal out of their gourds.

But this book is built on several crucial assumptions:  that a ten-year-old can tackle important questions and concepts, make mistakes without being a bad person, and understand someone of the opposite gender to be an intellectual equal. Wow, right? It also builds a sophisticated definition of real power–how it is earned and wielded.

Other exciting developments:

An authority figure apologizes to a child.

A few teachers see through the chaos and figure out how to use the new challenges set forth by their students in interesting and educational ways.

Everyone learns a lot.

A path of peace and mutual respect is forged between the girls and the boys.

I was terribly disappointed when the book ended. There are many great books out there, but it is such a pleasure to find those that have a sense of humor as well as something of interest to say.

Author: Beret Olsen

Beret Olsen is a writer, teacher, and photo editor for 100 Word Story. She loves toast, the Oxford comma, and all your comments and questions.

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