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Nothing But The Truth Hardcover – September 1, 1991

734 customer reviews

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Hardcover, September 1, 1991
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Structured as a series of journal entries, memos, letters and dialogues, this highly original novel emerges as a witty satire of high school politics, revealing how truth can easily become distorted. After Philip Malloy, a clownish, rather unmotivated freshman, is punished for causing a disturbance (humming "The Star Spangled Banner"), facts about the incident become exaggerated until a minor school infraction turns into a national scandal. Philip's parents, several reporters and a neighbor (who happens to be running for the school board) accuse the school of being unpatriotic. Philip gains fame as a martyr for freedom; his homeroom teacher, Miss Narwin, however, faces dismissal from her job. After gleaning the points of view of many characters, readers will side with Miss Narwin and will recognize the hollowness of Philip's eventual victory. It is clear that Avi ( The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle ) is attuned to the modern high school scene. With frankness and remarkable insight, he conveys the flaws of the system while creating a story that is both entertaining and profound. Ages 11-up.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-- Ninth grader Philip Malloy finds himself unable to participate on the track team because of his failing grade in English. Convinced the teacher, Margaret Narwin, dislikes him, he concocts a scheme to get transferred from her homeroom: instead of standing "at respectful, silent attention" during the national anthem, Philip hums. Throughout the ensuing disciplinary problems at school, his parents take his side, ignore the fact that he is breaking a school rule, and concentrate on issues of patriotism. The conflict between Philip and his school escalates, and he quickly finds the situation out of his control; local community leaders, as well as the national news media, become involved. At this point, the novel surges forward to a heartbreaking, but totally believable, conclusion. Avi carefully sets forth the events in the story, advancing the plot through conversations between students, Philip's parents, school personnel, and community politicians, while Philip's point of view is revealed through his diary entries, and Margaret Narwin's through letters to her sister. Also enriching the narrative are copies of school memos and newspaper articles, transcripts of speeches delivered, and copies of letters received by both Philip and his teacher; each document provides another perspective on the conflict and illuminates the many themes that beg to be discussed--most notably the irony of lives destroyed because of the misuse of power and the failure of people to communicate. Admirably well crafted and thought provoking. --Ellen Fader, Westport Public Library, CT
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic (September 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0531059596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0531059593
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (734 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,687,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

More info at and
Avi is part of a family of writers extending back into the 19th century. Born in 1937 and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools, before going to the Midwest and then back to NYC to complete his education. Starting out as a playwright--while working for many years as a librarian--he began writing books for young people when the first of his kids came along.

His first book was Things That Sometimes Happen, published in 1970, and recently reissued. Since then he has published seventy books. Winner of many awards, including the 2003 Newbery award for Crispin: the Cross of Lead (Hyperion), two Newbery Honors, two Horn Book awards, and an O'Dell award, as well as many children's choice awards, he frequently travels to schools around the country to talk to his readers.

Among his most popular books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic, and The Fighting Ground.

In 2008 he published The Seer of Shadows (HarperCollins), A Beginning a Muddle and an End (Harcourt), Hard Gold (Hyperion) and Not Seeing is Believing, a one-act play in the collection, Acting Out (Simon and Schuster). Crispin: the End of Time, the third in the Newbery Award-winning series, was published in 2010. City of Orphans was released in 2011, receiving a number of starred reviews. Learn more at Follow Avi on Facebook,, where he shares an inside look at his writing process.

Avi lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 31, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let's say you're a well-known children's author who wants to write a book criticizing the one-sided quick response nature of our media saturated society. And let's say that you'd like to show this nature in the form of a boy and the Star Spangled Banner. Now, there are two ways to go about this. The easy way would be to write a book in which a boy refuses to sing the Star Spangled Banner in class and his silent protestation is blown out of proportion and becomes a major national scandal. There are plenty o' books with this plot, or some mild variation. And while they are all well-intentioned, they're not particularly original. The more difficult method would be the one offered here by Avi. In this book you have a boy who is supposedly punished for singing the national anthem and his self-centered approach to this punishment ruins a whole lotta lives, including his own. Heard that story before? You will.

Philip Malloy is just your typical high school jerk. He goofs around, wants to be on the track team, and generally is as normal a guy as you could wish for. Of course, Phil's not exactly tops in his English class. In a clash of personalities, Philip tries to be lighthearted and silly when in the presence of Miss Narwin. Miss Narwin, on the other hand, is a truly dedicated teacher who tries as hard as she can to get her kids interested and serious in the great works of English literature. When Philip is disruptive and silly, she reacts strongly, trying to reach him. This all comes to a head when Miss Narwin is made Philip's homeroom teacher and asks him to remain silent (as per the school rules) during the daily playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Julie Norman on October 30, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was laid out a bit differently, giving you a different look at all kinds of parts of the story. Though something like this can be confusing, I think Avi did a good job. I did get mixed up between the principals, board members, etc. though.

Warning - some spoilers in this paragraph.

Just about everyone in the story lied except Narwin who was the person who took all the public blame. All she wanted to do was try to teach and the principal using that letter out of context was awful. It all came down to CYB - Cover Your Butt. It was funny to see how the report of the incident grew in exaggeration and how Ted's speech was basically the same thing but expanded as well. I don't defend Jesse either for his part of his lying. Although I don't think he had any idea what would happen when a few white lies got out of control.

The most significant part to me was the talk show transcripts. I used to produce a similar type of radio talk show. We did the very same thing - taking a controversial piece of news, just one article and blurb and expand on it for an hour of the show. This book made me wonder how many times we may have been wrong - or how many times other news media gets it wrong. Though I always tried to interview the sources, it wasn't always possible.

The lessons learned in this is be careful what you say and don't believe everything you hear. Some lessons are learned the hard way.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kara Reuter on September 14, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a story told indirectly, through diary entries, letters, memos, news clips, dialogues, and telegrams. As the reader pieces together these different materials, the story of a controversial episode over the course of several weeks in a high school emerges. Freshman Philip Malloy is struggling in English class and homeroom with his teacher Miss Narwin. Due to a failing grade in her class, he is unable to join the track team, his greatest ambition and likely only route to college. In a fit of unruliness, Philip sings along to the national anthem as it is played over the PA for morning announcements during homeroom. Warned twice over two days about breaking the rule to observe "respectful, silent attention" during the anthem, on the third day Philip willfully pushes Miss Narwin's limits until she sends him to the principal's office where he is promptly suspended. When relaying the day's events to his parents, Philip tells only part of the story, noting that he was suspended for singing the national anthem. Outraged at this supposed affront to a young man's expression of patriotism, a local politician and the media catch wind of the story and spread the story - full of misinformation and factual errors - across the country creating a huge media storm, which eventually results in the end of Miss Narwin's teaching career and similar unfortunate consequences to Philip himself. The story examines the variations a mistruth can go through when filtered through person after person and illustrates how different people can have multiple perceptions and interpretations of the same event. The various types of material offer the reader several points of view and provide insight in to the story that none of the characters alone possess.Read more ›
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Nothing But the Truth" is better than all but a very few of the adult novels I've read lately. I'd recommend it highly to adults (my wife loved it too), and it's well worth teaching to the right age group (roughly grade 9-11).
Avi's approach to character seems almost Shakespearean to high school--teachers, students, administrators, parents, politicians--and shows how their different goals and biases keep them from understanding and the protagonists' minor but significant character flaws lead to grievous consequences that ought to induce fear and pity. (This might be a nice book to pair with "Julius Caesar"--the characters could be generally writes in a workmanlike, clear prose that shouldn't intimidate younger readers.
Based on the other reviews I've read here, and thinking students who are too young (7th grade is too young). (2) Students will need help in discovering that the characters behave the way they do because they see the same incidents in very different ways. All the characters think they're telling "nothing but the truth," but their various "truths" are contradictory. If you can get students to see this, it could be a valuable lesson about why real-life political issues are so difficult to resolve. (3)Students find the ending a let-down, so teachers have to help the students see why a more conventional ending wouldn't have been right for the book.
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