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Posted December 21, 2013
Posted June 18, 2009
Reviewed by Natalie Tsang for TeensReadToo.com
Jen Bryant's RINGSIDE 1925 explores the Scopes Trial, one of the most controversial trials in American history, through nine diverse characters and is told through vivid verse.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
One memorable summer, the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, population 1,800, is turned upside down by the trial of a well-liked high school teacher. His crime is teaching evolution, a subject that the state of Tennessee had forbidden in the newly passed Butler Law.
William Jennings Bryan, a talented orator, preacher, and three time presidential nominee, will speak against evolution,
and Clarence Darrow, a brilliant lawyer, comes to defend Mr. Scopes.
News of the trial spreads quickly and, almost overnight, the town fills with news reporters, scientists, religious leaders, and tourists. Many residents, such as twelve-year-old Willy Amos and drugstore owner Mr. Robinson, see it as an opportunity to make some quick easy money. Since Darwin's theory of evolution suggests that man evolved from monkeys, Dayton begins selling everything from paper monkeys to Simian Sodas.
At first, the atmosphere is friendly and fun. Though they are on opposing sides of the "monkey trial," W. J. Bryan and Mr. Darrow are friends and share a dinner together at Tillie Stackhouse's boarding house. But as the trial drags on in the muggy summer weather, tensions rise. Not only do the two men's friendship become strained, but many of the residents become embroiled in the increasingly bitter God vs. science debate.
Many young readers may have learned about the Scopes Trial in school, but Bryant brings a new level of relevance by telling the story primarily through the eyes of Dayton's residents and observing the smaller but no less significant changes to a small town in addition to the broad historical significance.
Jimmy Lee Davis and Peter Sykes have been fishing buddies and best friends for years, but their personal beliefs lead them to support opposite sides of the trial. Marybeth Todd is a smart but restless teenager. When several professors come to stay at the boarding house she works at, they ask her to participate in their discussions of geology, anthropology, and other unfamiliar and wonderful topics. The influx of visitors brings in money, but also new ideas and opportunities.
Readers who usually dislike historical fiction will find Bryant's characters fresh, familiar, often insightful, and sometimes silly. The story feels real and full-fleshed, but never gets bogged down by its research.
Posted October 16, 2008
Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club.com
Remember learning about the Scopes Monkey trial in history class? The trial pitted the state of Tennessee against a high school science teacher, J.T. Scopes, who challenged the legality of the state's rule against teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. Ringside 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial by Jen Bryant brings the event to life in a way that your history book never could.<BR/><BR/>The story is told through the voices of several characters, mainly three students from the high school where Mr. Scopes taught. You also hear from a reporter who's in town covering the trial, the town's constable, a member of the ladies' Bible study group, and a preacher from out of town who comes in to see the event. Little Dayton, Tennessee, is transformed into a veritable circus of activity.<BR/>There are lots of characters in the book, but Bryant helps the reader keep them straight with a list of narrators at the front. I referred back to the list in the beginning, until I had gotten to know the characters well.<BR/><BR/>Because Ringside 1925 presents different sides of the story, it gives you lots to think about and discuss. Friendships are tested as the characters talk about their beliefs, and everyone steps out of their usual roles even if only for a few weeks.<BR/><BR/>It's interesting to hear the perspective of a young black boy who works with his father as a handyman and dreams of rising beyond the limitations put on him. It's also interesting to read actual quotes from the trial by lawyers and historical greats William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.<BR/><BR/>I loved being transported back to small town life in 1925, and hearing stories of how the townspeople of Dayton benefitted financially from all the extra visitors.<BR/><BR/>We never really hear the voice of J.T. Scopes, and it seems appropriate that we see the trial from the perspectives of all those around him. The event was less about him than it was about teaching evolution in school¿a conflict that continues on in some cases today. <BR/><BR/>The story is aimed at ages 12 and up, but I think some younger children will certainly be able to appreciate the very approachable story and learn about the historical case at the same time. I've also recommended it to my daughter who's a senior in high school, because I think the writing is interesting to all ages. I've heard about the Scopes Trial for years, and occasionally hear it mentioned, but this book brought it to life for me. I highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2008
Interesting Version of the Monkey Trial
The time is 1925, and the Butler Act of Tennessee was recently passed. This act bans the teaching of evolution in the classroom. The state of Tennessee felt that teaching that mankind evolved from lower animals would imply that the bible was wrong about creationism. One day in Dayton, TN, twenty-four year old J.T. Scopes substituting as a science teacher teaches the section about evolution that is in the class¿s biology text. He is asked to comply with being arrested for breaking the law. He agrees. This incident puts Dayton on the map. The notoriety of the case causes people to pour in from all over. Encouraged by this influx, simian-like statues and masks are selling like hotcakes. Rooms are rented out to reporters and restaurants are doing really well. It appears like the circus has come to town, the media circus that is. The author of ¿Ringside,¿ Jen Bryant tells a fictional story of the Scopes Trial using some real historical elements and characters. She wrote ¿Ringside¿ for children ages 12 and up. Much of it is written in poetic form which makes the words flow and very easy to read. The tale is also written in the form of narratives which were taken from characters involved with the trial. The narrators are of different ages, races and genders. The reader gets to view the case as it might have appeared from someone like them. I loved this touch because it really brought the issues with the case to life. You get to see the Scopes Trial from all angles. I found ¿Ringside¿ to be a fascinating way to learn about a real event that took place in our history. It taught me a lot about a case that I hear mentioned frequently, but actually had little background. It was also incredible to see what people were allowed to get away with. Even the judge who was a part time minister was allowed to ban scientific witnesses from the trial. It never had any hope of being won. Scope¿s attorney, Clarence Darrow, demonstrated his brilliance during a case that had no hope. I highly recommend this book. It would be a great addition to a summer reading list for children, or an awesome book to be read by history or science students who will be introduced to evolution or the Scopes trial.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2008
A fictionalized account of a historic trial¿
In 1925, Tennessee passed a state law against teaching ¿any theory that denies the story of creation of man as taught in the bible, and to teach instead that man descended from a lower order of animals.¿. John Scopes, high school science teacher, was charged with teaching evolution. So began the trial that would long be remembered. Two famous lawyers challenged each other in court. William Jennings Bryan argued for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow represented the defense. For a short time, the eyes of the world were on Dayton, TN. The town had a short economic boom thanks to the journalists. Jen Bryant utilizes prose to tell the story of the Scopes trial. She shares the account through the eyes of various people. Bryant successfully educates and entertains readers in her book Ringside 1925. I found her style intriguing and unique. Bryant takes a true event and fictionalized. She uses just the right amount of humor to keep the reader interested. History buffs will enjoy reading Ringside 192.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.