Simon and Shuster, 2007 146 pgs
Realistic Fiction/School Story
Meet the "unshushables", the current crop of fifth graders at Laketon Elementary School, known for their incessant need to constantly be making noise and the never ending war of boys verses girls. After a project on India, where he is exposed to the peaceful protests of Ghandi, Dave decides to become silent for a day. This opens new areas of enlightenment for him and he decides to challenge girl kingpin, Lynsey to a no-talking challenge. The challenge escalates to a contest of "girls verses boys". The kids are limited to three word sentences to answer teachers and administration only and they must keep silent the rest of the time. Points are tallied by team leaders Dave and Lynsey and the kids are on the honor system at home. At first the teachers are surprised but then get use to this new development in the fifth grade and use it to their advantage while teaching. The principal on the other hand is not happy with the contest and feels it is disruptive to the school day. On day two she yells through her bullhorn at lunchtime demanding that the silent students start talking. Dave, specifically, is targeted and he must break the no talking rule to stand up for himself and his right to remain silent, even if it means getting in trouble and loosing the contest.
This book is my lead in to the Reader's Rock (grades 3&4) book club for the new year. I picked it because it is a slam dunk. It features both a boy and a girl main character, takes place in a familiar setting, and is moved along by a plot that the kids can relate to. The length is perfect for readers just emerging from introductory chapter books. There is humor and a lightness to the story, yet it contains enough "meat" to allow for a proper discussion. Clements is the master of the school story and this book is one of his best. It is probably the fourth time I've read No Talking and I still enjoyed it. I love that the principal shows her human side and respects her students enough to apologize. The kids learn to stand up for what they believe in and finally begin to work together burying their battle of the sexes. I love that this story exposes kids to the work of Ghandi, peaceful protest, and the benefits of meditation. It is right on target of the audience, relevant, solidly written, and entertaining. Most of all, this book may encourage children to try the "no talking" experiment themselves, which would be music to most parents (and librarian's) ears.