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The Truth about Truman School Paperback – March 1, 2009

64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—Told not to write anything that would get the administration riled up, Zebby Bower becomes fed up and quits as editor of the school newspaper. Soon after, she and her friend Amr begin their own online newspaper, one that they hope will provide a true voice to the students of Truman Middle. It takes off, but in an unfortunate direction. When anonymous posts about popular Lilly Clarke start to get vicious, calling her a homo, a lesbo, and more, the devastated girl goes missing, and the site's creators scramble to figure out what to do. Chapters alternate among Zebby, Amr, and the students surrounding the scheme to ruin Lilly, each one providing a unique perspective as the action unfolds. With anonymous entries that subtly build suspense, the events brought about by this 21st-century slam book cause the characters to examine how the things they say and do can be hurtful to others without even realizing it. The story moves at a good pace and the timely subject of cyberbullying will be relevant to readers. The language is accessible and the students' voices ring true. This thought-provoking read is sure to initiate discussion.—Bethany A. Lafferty, Las Vegas-Clark County Library, NV
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Frustrated with the censorship she encounters writing for the school newspaper, Zebby collaborates with friend, Amr, to launch an underground, online newspaper that will expose the truth about Truman School. Zebby envisions a site where students can discuss the new math curriculum, but the newspaper quickly morphs into online gossip when someone posts a malicious photo of Lilly, a popular eighth-grader. Determined to respect free speech and make the site everyone’s newspaper, Zebby and Amr decide not to delete the post because It isn’t any big deal. Told in shifting first-person narratives, the ramifications of cyber-bullying become clear as the story unfolds. Small icons, such as a crown for social queen Hayley and a reporter’s notebook for Zebby, appear at the beginning of each narrative, helping to keep the multiple voices distinct. The characters are often painted with broad, flat strokes, particularly the popular girls, resulting in a book that reads like an after-school special— but a especially timely and relevant one. Grades 5-8. --Suzanne Harold --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 13 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 8
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807580961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807580967
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dori Hillestad Butler has always wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel when she was in sixth grade. She wrote it to find out if she could write a novel, and because she needed extra credit in her English class. Her dream of becoming a published author came true in 1997, with the publication of The Great Tooth Fairy Rip-Off. She's gone on to publish more than 35 additional books for children.

Her books have been appeared on children's choice award lists in 18 different states. Trading Places with Tank Talbott won the Maryland Children's Choice Award in 2007. And The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for best Juvenile Mystery.

Dori has also been a ghostwriter for the Sweet Valley Twins, Unicorn Club and Boxcar Children series, and a children's book reviewer for several publications. She's published numerous short stories, plays and educational materials, and has served as the Iowa Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators' Regional Advisor.

She grew up in southern Minnesota and now lives in Coralville, Iowa with her husband, son, dog and cat. She visits schools and leads writing workshops all over the country.

For more information, visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on July 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was surprised at how much I liked this book. I read juvenile and YA fiction for a few reasons. One is to keep up with (or ahead of) my 6th grade daughter. Another is to gain insight into the tween culture, and a third is because it reminds me of what it was like to be that age.

This story takes place when a student-run website that is set up to tell "the truth about Truman school" (which can't be told in the school newspaper because of the mean, unsupportive teacher sponsor). The idea is that it's everyone's site, and that anyone can post comments, polls, or an article. However, the editors soon have to decide if they want to allow mean-spirited attacks on there or not. They decide to allow it, and it gets out of hand, with one girl being targeted by an anonymous user who posts a link to another site where everyone can post why they hate her.

Of course, eventually it's uncovered and the authorities are brought in to figure out who the anonymous user is, and the victim also wants to figure out why. The students each have to write about what happened for language arts, but the editor of the Truth About Truman School decides to have people write two versions - the school version with all the commas in the right place, and another version to appear on the website that tells how they really feel. This is how the book is constructed - short excerpts from a handful of students telling their side of the story.

When I was in 8th grade like these students at Truman Middle School, we had no cyber bullying, but there was still bullying - mean girls jockeying for position and spreading rumors or sending mean notes to others.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MH on July 13, 2009
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Butler's novel about bullying in middle school is so very close to the truth. From cyberbullying to flat out name calling, Butler offers an unflattering, yet true-to-life, view of middle school social trends. More to the point, Butler focuses on how cruel, self-centered, and uncaring many pre-teens and teens are. Butler also includes the fact that many adults either deny that such hatred occurs or blindly ignore bullying by looking the other way.

The novel's unique format will appeal to young adult readers; the novel is written as a series of blog-like entries from a variety of characters. Each entry is prefaced with the character's name and with an icon to identify the character. This is a fantastic format for struggling and reluctant readers. Also, the voice of the novel will appeal to young adult readers. The characters "sound" like real middle school students.

The Truth about Truman School is an excellent read and should be read by middle school students and anyone who comes in contact with them. The novel is a shout out as to how mean people are and can be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Free2Read on April 25, 2009
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Middle school, the nerds vs. the popular kids. The story has been told since "Rebel Without a Cause" and Hinton's "The Outsider." Doris Hillestad Butler puts a modern spin on the problems of middle school by adding in the real world: texting and the Internet.

Weird Zibby and her equally outcast friend, Amr, decide to launch a web site where kids can discuss the TRUTH about their school. They have idealistic hopes that their web site will get other kids to think about things like the new math curriculum. Amr is Moslem and must defend his faith and customs against cruel remarks and innuendos. Zibby chooses her blue hair, but has no one except Amr to share her love of newspapers and politics.

The web site quickly turns into a gossip repository and then a cyber-bullying web site. The results are not good for anyone, especially the target of the attacks.

Libby and Amr learn about responsibility, friendship, and what freedom of the press can mean in their age group.

This is a good slice-of-life novel with interesting, distinct voices. It would have been nice to add one or two smarter, more cautious adults to the mix!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Junkin-Mills VINE VOICE on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'The Truth About Truman School' is a YA book about middle school, and cliques, and cyber-bullying. Two 8th graders - Zebby and Amr - start a website that is supposed to talk about the real things that happen at their school (Zebby is frustrated that the school newspaper is only allowed to publish puff pieces). Quickly, though, the site becomes a forum for bashing one of the 'popular girls' ... much cruelty and angst ensue.

The book is framed as bits of the story unfolding from the POV of a half-dozen or so of the people most involved in the prank (Zebby & Amr, the girl being bullied, some of her popular friends and one brief and hilarious entry from her jock boyfriend, and 2 social outcasts). The varying perspectives keep the book interesting, and there's a bit of a mystery as well; the reader does not know who the 'bully' is until the end.

Honestly, I was prepared for something trite and preachy about bullying, or some self-absorbed teenaged whining. I found neither in this book. While the concept (bullying) is nothing new, I thought the presentation was fresh and I found the mystery compelling enough to keep me intrigued until the end.

I'm 47 years old, and I wondered what ages this book would most appeal to. I gave it to my 15 year-old son, who read it very fast and really enjoyed it, though he did feel it was a little young for him. Then I gave it to my 12 year-old son, who also read it fast and loved it. I would say that Middle Schoolers are the most appropriate audience here; I disagree with the '9-12' advice given in the book description here.

I would have given the book 4 stars, but my kids both gave it a 5 star rating so I went with their advice, since this is a YA novel and I am unfortunately no longer Y.

Bottom Line: A fast compelling read that takes a realistic look at bullying; it should appeal to most Middle Schoolers.
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