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77 pages 2 hours read

Andrew Clements

No Talking

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2007

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

No Talking (2007) is a children’s novel by Andrew Clements, and the 2010 recipient of the California Young Reader Medal. In the novel, fifth-grade boys and girls compete to see who can talk the least at school. The competition causes an uproar among teachers and staff, exploring questions of authority in the school setting and building friendships across differences. 

Andrew Clements was a teacher, author, editor, and book publisher, best known for his debut novel, Frindle (1996). His works have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and have won nearly two dozen awards. This guide references the original ebook version of the novel.

Plot Summary

At Laketon Elementary School, Dave Packer and Lynsey Burgess are two talkative fifth graders. They don’t like each other, mainly because they belong to opposite genders. One day, Dave tries being silent at school after reading about Mahatma Gandhi’s weekly day of silence, but he yells at Lynsey when her lunchtime babbling annoys him. Dave says that girls talk more than boys, and he dares Lynsey and all the fifth-grade girls to be more silent than the boys. They agree to a two-day contest with the exception that if a teacher asks a question, they are allowed to give a three-word answer.

The next day at lunch, the kids begin their game of silence. School staffers, who call the fifth-graders the “Unshushables,” are surprised and confused by the sudden quiet. During afternoon classes, teachers discover that the kids talk only in short, clipped sentences, or write down their answers. At first, this annoys the grown-ups, but because it doesn’t interfere with schoolwork, the teachers come to like the peacefulness.

Dave passes a note to Lynsey saying that the effects of the contest are interesting. She writes back and agrees—a rare friendly moment. The teachers, troubled by the strange behavior, agree with Principal Hiatt that she must call a morning assembly and put a halt to the game.

That evening, the kids struggle to keep silent when queried by their parents. The next morning, using the honor system, a handful of boys and girls report that they spoke a few words, and Dave and Lynsey add those violations to the team scores.

The principal calls an assembly where she insists that the students return to speaking normally, but as classes begin the kids stay quiet. Teachers notice that the three-word rule seems to focus classroom attention and that the kids get more work done. English teacher Mr. Burton is fascinated by the change, and he takes copious notes on the interesting short sentences the children invent and other effects. Other teachers fear that the contest is a stunt to challenge their authority.

Principal Hiatt finds the fifth graders are still quiet at lunch. Angry, she demands that Dave speak in full sentences to his friend, but Dave retorts that the students have a right to remain silent during their lunch period. Mrs. Hiatt leaves in a huff, and the students applaud and cheer. Dave gets sent to the principal’s office, where he apologizes to Mrs. Hiatt, but she turns the tables and apologizes to him for her own outburst. On a hunch, Dave invites her to join the students in the three-word rule, and Mrs. Hiatt accepts. She calls another assembly, where she announces that the contest now applies to all students from first grade on up.

Dave’s use of 27 extra words during his speech at lunch nearly costs the boys the game, but just before time expires the next day, Lynsey gives a brief speech thanking the boys for being good about the honor system and thanking everyone for being so good at the game. The contest ends, and the kids erupt into noisy talking. Lynsey shows Dave that her speech makes the score even. The boys and girls end the contest in a tie, and Lynsey and Dave are no longer enemies.

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