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  New York Times Review

ANREW CLEMENTS set the standard for the school story in 1996 with his first novel, "Frindle," which went on to sell more than two million copies. The classic school story is set in elementary or middle school, and the characters are people whom readers can identify with. Most of these stories take place in Middle America, but they can also be set in an urban environment. The kids are not seriously troubled, their parents aren't dead, missing or on drugs. All of these accounts are plausible. "Frindle" hits every note right. The protagonist is Nick, a fifth grader who, in trying to sidetrack. Ms dictionary-loving teacher, finds himself in a battle of nerves as he tries to get a made-up word for a writing implement, frindle, into common usage. Nick succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. In the real world too, a recent online search of Wiktionary brings up frindle: Noun, frindle 1. A pen. 2. {{Definition from novel "Frindle": }} frindle (frin' dl). n. 1. an implement used to make permanent marks on a writing material, (arbitrary coinage by Nicholas Alien (the fictional character from above-mentioned book}}) see "pen." Clements nails everyday classroom culture. The smallest misunderstanding can skyrocket out of proportion. When you're a kid, you don't often have the whole story, or the big picture. Sometimes the grown-ups are conspiring against you. He also understands that stories can be humorous without their themes being trivial. In "The Landry News," he examines what happens if the teacher not only loses control of a class but also abdicates responsibility for it. In "Lunch Money," a kid obsessed with turning a profit finds a friend and a higher purpose. "The Report Card" digs into the world of high-stakes testing. And Clements actually has a novel titled "The School Story." His teachers aren't "Charlie Brown"-type monoliths. They're individuals with their own quirks and anxieties, and they don't always agree. Clements matter-of-factly demonstrates that teachers can be petty and single-minded; a principal can apologize to a student for overreacting. His kids are cruel, kind, bullying, angry, joyful, delightful, tall, short, impulsive, thoughtful, smart, funny. He captures a broad spectrum of human behavior; the gossipy mean girl can also be surprisingly generous. Clements's uncomplicated language allows kids to read up on students in higher grade levels. If his fifth graders seem a little young, it's because he's aware that third and fourth graders are reading these books. "No Talking" is Clements's best school story since "Frindle." Teachers and students will recognize the book's noisy gang of fifth graders. This cohort is so obnoxiously raucous that teachers dread lunch duty. No, really, these kids were deafening in the first, second, third and fourth grades. The educators entrusted with lowering the ear-splitting level have nicknamed the students "the Unshushables." A few teachers have already stopped making any effort to quiet them, because it's November, and in just six months the Unshushables will be off to junior high. That is until Dave Packer, a leading loudmouth, bets Lynsey Burgess, another title-holding talker, that she can't possibly be quiet. The exact throwdown goes "If you had to shut up for five minutes, I bet the whole top of your head would explode!" A few "oh yeahs" later and the wager spirals into a boys-versus-girls contest, with no talking at school or at home for two whole days. If a teacher asks a direct question, it can be answered in only three words; any words above that will be counted as points against the team. In the first period after lunch, Mrs. Marlow, a veteran science teacher, receives short, odd answers to her questions about the homework: "I used ... math," "I did ... comparing," "Barrels of oil," "Um ... the first day." There's no shouting, no questions, no painful, boisterous distractions and no whispering. Mrs. Marlow knows something is up but has no idea what. Luck turns her way when she confiscates a note from Lynsey to Dave, gloating that "Um" counted as a word, so he cost the boys a whole point. With that piece of information, Mrs. Marlow figures out that the kids are in some kind of competition to keep quiet. She decides to keep this piece of intelligence to herself, to allow the kids their experiment. The big question is, Do students have the right to remain silent? Clements's amusingly detached omniscient narration takes no sides in this contest of wills, not only pitting boys against girls, but also teacher against teacher, teacher against principal, and principal against students as they all negotiate their way through an eerily near-silent 48 hours. At the joyously deafening conclusion, the resemblance to an actual school is entirely coincidental, and remarkable. Lisa Von Drasek is the children's librarian of the Bank Street College of Education.

  Booklist Review

Ah, silence the pipe dream of the frazzled educator. In Clements' latest novel, however, a group of fifth graders turn silence to their own subversive ends, yielding a comic yet thoughtful classroom drama in a mode the popular author has made his own. Inspired by Gandhi's daylong rituals of silence, Dave devises a contest to determine whether girls or boys can keep their traps shut the longest. As the diversion builds to something more significant, the kids' creative adaptations, such as the condensed haiku of their spoken interactions with grown-ups, form a big part of the story. Equally prominent are the responses of teachers, who struggle in different ways with the controlling principal's mandate to discipline the zip-lipped miscreants. Clements tosses out more issues than the brief, fablelike story can fully absorb, with kids' experience of silence as exciting, even dangerous, coming across the least clearly. But the school dynamics are spot-on, and the paradoxical notion of opening up one's experience of the world by imposing constraints upon it will intrigue readers of any age. Illustrations not seen.--Mattson, Jennifer Copyright 2007 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

A vintage tale from the master of the theme-driven, feel-good school story. Having learned during the preparation of a class report that Mahatma Gandhi habitually spent one day a week not talking, Dave decides to try that out--but in the wake of a lunchroom shouting match with fellow fifth-grader Lynsey, the solo effort escalates into a two-day zipped-lip contest between the whole grade's infamously noisy boys and girls. As usual, Clements works out the rules and complications in logical ways (three-word replies to direct questions from adults are OK, for instance, which makes for some comical dialogue), casts no sociopaths among his crew of likable, well-intentioned young folk to spoil the experience and makes his points in engagingly indirect ways. The experiment soon takes on profound implications, too, as the collective action turns into civil disobedience when the autocratic principal decides to put a stop to it. By the end, the two camps have become more allies than rivals, and Dave has seen himself and those around him taking strides toward becoming more thoughtful, compassionate people. A strong addition to the "waging peace" genre. (Fiction. 9-11) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
"You have the right to remain silent." However...<br> <br> The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot.<br> <br> Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea -- a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls.<br> <br> How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lynsey plunge the whole school into chaos?<br> <br> This funny and surprising book is about language and thought, about words unspoken, words spoken in anger, and especially about the power of words spoken in kindness...with or without a bullhorn. It's Andrew Clements at his best -- thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining.
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