Written by Andrew Clements
Illustrated by Mark Elliot
Published by Simon & Schuster
Ages 8-12 yrs
Middle Grade School. Boys v/s Girls. Each thinks the others stink. So what happens if they get into a conflict over something worthwhile? Just what happens in our book.
Dave Packer, while preparing for a class presentation on India, comes across the story of Mahatma Gandhi, and is inspired by the principles of non-violence, non-cooperation and the disciplining of the mind by not talking.
"And it made him wonder what that would be like--to go a whole day without saying a single word...if not talking would bring order to his mind too." For that was something the fifth form was notorious for- talking, talking, talking- in class, at lunch break, in the corridors, on the playground- every thought thought out aloud!
Dave decides to put the idea to a test. He soon comes up against jeering by the girls, one girl in particular- Lynsey Burgess. Who takes up his challenge on behalf of all the girls. Starting that lunch period, all everyone was to hold their tongues completely. For the next 48 hrs. The 'maun-vrat' would be broken only after lunch break on the second day. They could talk only if a teacher or parent spoke to them directly, and even then they could speak only three words at a time. After school hours, they were supposed to be 'on their honour' and report any transgressions truthfully. It was a Boys v/s Girls contest- to be fought to the finish!
The teachers become aware of something strange in the air almost immediately. The quiet was unnatural, for these were the Unshushables- who even had a separate lunch break to themselves, with teachers hovering in the hallway, trying to keep down the decibel levels. "Mrs Hiatt, the principal, didn't want the noisy behaviour of this group to infect the other children at her school."
How does the experiment proceed? How does each teacher react to it? How do the students handle the indignation of Mrs Hiatt, who takes the whole thing personally, and tries to break what she feels is the students' non-cooperation in behaving normally? What is learnt in the whole process-- by the students, and by the teachers? Who wins, Girls or Boys?
A wonderful book about conflict in middle grade school, by Andrew Clements whose book Frindle has earlier been reviewed on Saffrontree. A book about the power of the mind, the power of the spoken and unspoken word. About people power. A fun book about recognising when to fight and when to let go. About communication, about the use and misuse of language. About standing up for yourself if you are right.
Image courtesy flipkart. Crossposted.