Friday, July 2, 2010

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

Nothing But the Truth by Avi
Publisher:  Orchard Books, 1991
Pages:  177
Source:  Purchased
Genre:  Middle Grade Realistic Fiction/documentary

Phillip Malloy is your typical ninth grader.  He has his favorite subjects and his favorite teachers.  Miss Narwin is not one of his favorite teachers.  He makes jokes about the assignments and doesn’t give 100% of himself to his studies.  He earns a D in English and is not allowed to try out for track, the only thing he really wants to do in school.  He decides he wants out of Narwin’s class at all cost.  He didn’t realize the cost of his actions would be so high.  He hums along with the playing of the National Anthem and is sent out of class for disrupting.  His comments to his parents, his slant on the situation sets in motion something that grows bigger than both Phillip and Miss Narwin.  The truth never does come out completely. 

I believe this book should be required reading by teachers and students alike.  I have seen both sides of this story; the kid who is trying to get under a teacher’s skin to get their way or the teacher who takes the rules so literally that things get blown out of proportion.  I have also seen schools and school boards hang teachers out to dry in an effort to do damage control.  In both cases things have gotten so out of hand and convoluted that the truth is buried in all of the garbage.  Irreparable damage is done to all parties involved. 

I was irritated when I read the school was trying to blame the situation on problems at home.  Kids will be kids and act out at times.  I was irritated by the fact that Miss Narwin took the issue of the singing or humming when the rule was “stand and be respectful and silent”.  That one struck a chord with me because I have followed rules to the T at times only to realize that I needed to let up on the interpretation a little.  As teachers we seem to want all aspects of a rule spelled out so that we don’t run into these problems.  I found myself really irritated the way the school board twisted things like Miss Narwin’s request for teacher training.  They made it seem to the press like the teacher was old and worn out and didn’t know how to handle things anymore. 

Even more irritating was the way the press handled things.  Why no one ever thought to get Miss Narwin together with Phillip to sort it out bugged me.  Both of them realized that things were out of control and they both lost.  I will definitely recommend this book to my students.  I will definitely talk with them about making things clear and how to find the truth in what we read.  I am lucky that our school has a class set.  Unfortunately we have a core curriculum that has the books we are to teach all lined up.  I am going to have to do something creative to teach this because I believe it is an important book.


  1. Thank you for the review. I will be adding it to my wishlist.

  2. I have taught this for a number of years and always get a kick out how the kids identify so quickly with Phillip. It is a fun book read as a whole class dividing up the various part too since it told through letters, news clippings and etc. Hope you are able to get the book to teach.