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Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel

Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel

3.3 220
by Avi

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This Newbery Honor Book by acclaimed author Avi is available again through Scholastic--in an After Words paperback edition!

In this thought-provoking examination of freedom, patriotism, and respect, ninth-grader, Philip Malloy, is kept from joining the track team by his failing grades in English class. Convinced that the teacher just doesn't like him, Philip


This Newbery Honor Book by acclaimed author Avi is available again through Scholastic--in an After Words paperback edition!

In this thought-provoking examination of freedom, patriotism, and respect, ninth-grader, Philip Malloy, is kept from joining the track team by his failing grades in English class. Convinced that the teacher just doesn't like him, Philip concocts a plan to get transferred out of her class. Breaking the school's policy of silence during the national anthem, he hums along, and ends up in a crisis at the center of the nation's attention.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Oct.)
Children's Literature
Phillip Malloy is in ninth grade, and he dreams of being a track star. However, there is one thing in his way: Miss Narwin, his English teacher and homeroom teacher. The poor grade he has earned in her English class is keeping him from joining the track team. As a result, Phillip begins to lash out against Miss Narwin by humming The National Anthem during homeroom, and pretty soon, the whole situation spins out of control, as school bureaucracy, parental issues, the media, and teenage angst all enter into the mix. Phillip and Miss Narwin soon find themselves at the center of a much larger controversy of a completely unrelated issue: the right of a student to express patriotism. This award-winning novel by Avi shows how easily a simple act of defiance by a teenager can soon become the center of the political correctness debate waging in the United States. This is an interesting, and yet disturbing, story that captures the unfortunate reality of today's school system and the media frenzy around it. Although written for young readers, it is also a good read for parents and educators. As is typical of Avi, the writing is riveting and revealing. 2004 (orig. 1991), Orchard Classics, Ages 14 up.
—Sheree Van Vreede
Children's Literature - Susan Wilde
Through a series of memos, journal entries, phone conversations and newspaper articles, this book uses documentary techniques to tell the story of ninth-grader Philip Malloy who is suspended from school for humming "The Star Spangled Banner." Irony, parallels, contradictory viewpoints, and character-deepening revelations come in bits and pieces that create an astounding whole. Themes include a father who wants his son to conquer a world he can't, to a boy who cannot grow because he is imprisoned by his spite.
School Library Journal
Gr 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

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Tuesday, March 13

10:35 P.M.

From the Diary of Philip Malloy

Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted, to make sure I'm trying out for the track team!!!! Said my middle school gym teacher told him I was really good!!!! Then he said that with me on the Harrison High team we have a real shot at being county champs. Fantastic!!!!!! He wouldn't say that unless he meant it. Have to ask folks about helping me get new shoes. Newspaper route won't do it all. But Dad was so excited when I told him what Coach said that I'm sure he'll help.

Saw a thing on TV about Olympic committees already organizing all over the country. Olympics. I'm going to be there! County champs. State champs. College champs. Then Olympics! Folks always reminding me about the money they're putting aside for my college, which is the only way to go. That's what did Dad in, dropping out. Too hard to get noticed with just clubs.

Rainy and cold. I hate this kind of weather. Slows you down. Still ran six miles. I'm getting stronger.

Oh, yeah.... At lunch Sarah Gloss came up and said she had to speak to me. Said this girl, Allison Doresett, likes me. I had to act cool because I wasn't sure who she was. Then I remembered she's in my English class and is really decent. She must have liked that gag question I asked. The two of us would be front-of-the-line. Bet she heard about my running too. Girls go for guys who win. Ta-da! It's Malloy Magic time!

Talk about Malloy Magic.... This time for -- dadum! -- Miss Narwin. I mean, what can you do with an English teacher who's so uptight shemust have been put together with super glue. Try to make a joke -- lighten things up a bit -- she goes all flinty-faced. Shift to sweet, she goes sour. I mean, people can't have their, own minds about anything!!! Talk about a free country!!! And the stuff we have to read! Can't believe how stupid and boring Jack London is! I mean, really. The Call of the Wild. Talk about dogs! Ma says she had to read it when she was in school. There has to be better stuff to read for ninth grade somewhere. I thought high school was going to be different.

Have to figure a way to run past Narwin.

10:45 P.M.
From a Letter Written by
Margaret Narwin
to Her Sister, Anita Wigham

Yes, Anita, I suppose that after doing anything for twenty-one years a body does get a little tired. And I have been teaching English at Harrison High for just that long. All the same, I remain steadfast in my belief that my life was meant to be the bringing of fine literature to young minds. When the connection is made -- and from time to time it is made -- it's all worth it. Is it wrong to speak of the work as a calling? Well, teaching is almost a religion to me. I will complain from time to time, but -- it is my life. The truth is, I like it.

But the other truth, Anita, is that students today are not what they used to be. There is no love of literature. Not the way you and I learned it from Mother. Young people don't read at all today- outside of school requirements. They come to literature reluctantly at best, fighting me every inch of the way. It's not as if they aren't bright. They are. And I like them and their capacity for independence. But the other side of that independence is a lack of caring for anything beyond themselves. If they ask me once more "What's this have to do with us?" I think I'll scream. Of course, I don't scream. You have to treat them with care and fairness. Fairness is so important to them.

For example: these days I'm teaching The Call of the Wild. A student raised his hand to say he didn't understand "who was calling who." Now if I were to laugh or mock, he would be insulted. And I would lose him.

This boy, Philip Malloy, is new to me. I met his parents at First Night, and they seem like pleasant folks; they come regularly to PTA meetings. They are educated -- she is, anyway. I'm not sure what they do.

But this Philip -- an only son, by the way, which may be the problem -- is only a middling student, and it's a shame. A nice-looking boy. A boy I like. Intelligent. With real potential. Perhaps that's why he irritates me so -- for he shows no desire to strive, to make sacrifices for the betterment of self, the way we were taught. And, oh, my, Anita, so restless! Worst of all, like so many of them, he exhibits no desire to learn. No ambition at all! But it's not even that I mind so much. No, it's a certain something -- a resistance -- to accepting the idea that literature is important. For him or anyone! But it is. It is! If I could only convince students of that. It's that desire that keeps me going.

I can hear you saying, "Come on down to Florida, Anita, I don't know if I am ready for that yet.

Yes, I could take early retirement. Mr. Benison (scence) is doing so. But then, he's older than I. And has a wife who works. The truth is, Anita, I would be lost without my books, my teaching, my students.

I had a note from Ethel Truebel! Do you rememberher? She used to be in the West Fork Church congregation years ago. It seems ...

Meet the Author

Avi's work spans nearly every genre and has received nearly every major prize, including the Newbery Medal for CRISPIN: THE CROSS OF LEAD and Newbery Honors for NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE. Avi lives in Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at www.avi-writer.com.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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Nothing but the Truth 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 219 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, I totally loved this book and wanted to say so after I read it. It is really put together in an interesting way. I had to read it for my 8th grade lang. arts/history class, and at first I was little confused until I realized I had to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out the story. I can't believe some other students on this site thought it was boring because most of the kids in my class really liked it. I have to say that some of the posters might not have been smart enough to figure it out. In the novel you really get everyone's point of view from different angles. Unfortunately, anyone who is stupid or lazy will probably not get what is happening because it is not the usual kind of plot. Ironically, me and most of my classmates really sided with the teacher in the end.
alivia-brown More than 1 year ago
Alivia Brown 9-6-2011 Nothing but the Truth Retell In the story nothing but the truth, a boy named Philip Malloy who is 15 years old wants to be on the track team for Harrison High School. Little does Philip know he failed English class and can't tryout. So he tries to blame it on the lovely English teacher Miss. Narwin. Philip then decides to tick Miss Narwin off by singing the "National Anthem" every single morning when the students are to be showing respect by being quiet.So the next morning , when announcements were over and the principle turned on the "National Anthem " Philip Malloy decided to hum along with the music. The English teacher, Miss Narwin, asked him nicely to stop and be quiet. When school was over he told his mother what had happened and thought it was a stupid reason to get yelled at.The next morning , Philip went to his homeroom for annoucements.The principle ,Dr. Doane, asked everyone to please stand up while the "National Anthem " was being played. So Philip once again started humming to the national anthem. Miss Narwain had asked him once really nicely to stop but Philip would refuse to stop. So she sent Philip to the office .When Philip walked into the office Dr. Palleni asked him why you are in here and he told him not to do it again so he won't get into any trouble. When school was over, Philip when home and told him mother and father that it had happened again. He got in trouble for singing the national anthem but this time he was sent to the office. Philip's dad told him that was a really dumb excuse and that he needs to stick up for himself.The next morning, when Philip got to school he went to his homeroom for the announcements and they played the "National Anthem" and once again hummed to the beat. Miss Narwin asked him very politely to stop and Philip did not listen so she said it once again and Philip told her that he is not going to stop singing. Miss Narwin was really mad that he had talked back to her and so she told him to go to the office but Philip would refuse to go. So Miss. Narwin told him again to go to the office again and so he finally went to the office to go talk to Dr. Palleni.Philip walked into the office and Dr. Palleni told him that he needs to stop this foolishness and told Phillip all he had to was apologies' to Miss.Narwin and he would not be suspended. But Philip refused to apologies' to her and took the suspension instead. When Philip got home, he told his mom and dad at dinner they thought it was so stupid and pathetic that he would get suspended just for singing the "National Anthem ". So his dad walked over to his neighbor and saw that there was a reporter their and asked his neighbor if he could let Philip talk to her about the deal of why he was suspended. The next day, his parents and all the teachers was reading the news paper. Philip started to act different in some way. His parents would ask him if he was ok but he never would say a word about why he was acting so weird. After all the commotion between the story and his parents it got way worse. The reporters were asking all different questions and by the time his suspension was over all his friends were so mad at him for making Miss Narwin look like the bad person of all of this so his friends ended up starting a petition for Miss Narwin. By the time this all happened his parents were thinking of using his college money to let him go to an expensive private school.
Madelyn-Nanney More than 1 year ago
I didn't like the end when Philip is asked to lead the "Star Spangled Banner" and he doesn't know it. Another part I didn't like was when Philip got a suspension for humming it and "causing a distubance". I would not recommend this to anyone, b/c it is not good. When Philip had a crush (Allison) I thought they should have dated instead of hating or despising each other toward the end. Lastly, I think Philip should not have went to Washington Academy, he should have just worked things out with Narwin. Thanks Mr. Phillips, if I were you, I wouldn't make next years class read this. No offense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because I learned many things about telling a lie. I would reccomend this book to other people to read becase it has many things that you can learn from it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nothing But the Truth is an amazing book. It tells how tabloids mix the easiest things up. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes any Avi book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
glenny52709 More than 1 year ago
In the book Nothing But the Truth by Avi, readers get the unique experience of viewing all sides to a situation without bias. By the end of the book, it is up to readers to decide who is telling the "truth". Questions about what the truth truly is and if it even exists make great discussion questions. It is not an easy decision written in black and white to decide who is being truthful, but Avi leaves it up to us to decide for ourselves. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages!
Marlen_FUENTEZZZZ More than 1 year ago
I disagree with ALL the positive comments. I  do not think the book was all that great, nor do i think that it was hilarious. I did not learn anything about telling lies that i already didnt know. I would not recommend this book to somebody that doesnt have  to read it. Overall  the  way the story was written was  understandable, i got everybodys point of view..
brock-theriot More than 1 year ago
I disagree with the negative comments on Nothing But the Truth, because overall the book was very good. The plot was very straight forward, it stayed on topic. The format of the book makes the reading interesting because it allows you to understand more about whats going on in the story. In my opinion i really did enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone who wants a quick and enjoyable read.
TraNayeBrooks More than 1 year ago
I disagree with the negative comments. I find the book to be enjoyable. Nothing But The Truth is not boring at all! Many events happen to keep you interested. The books ending was at all what anyone expected. Which i think is great because it was not a generic ending like some book endings . The author is very original with his way of writing. 
Alexis_Bernard More than 1 year ago
I disagree with Sherlock_Holmes.  I feel Nothing But The Truth was a very interesting story about how speaking up for self can have positive and negative consequences  Not everyone will agree with what you believe in but you still have to stand up for yourself.  Nothing But The Truth has plenty to offer to teenage readers by showing them that media can sometimes mix our views of situations by blowing them out of portions. I would recommend Nothing But The Truth to anyone young and old interested in reading about a boy standing up for his rights and a teacher is put on the wrong side of the situation by the media.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. it really isnt something i would nomally read but i loved the text style and the plot. it was hilarious and just couldnt put it down. you should definately read this book. or any or book by Avi. <3 <3 <3 <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worse book.  This book is horrible don't even waist you time.  Book is boring and nothing happens.  I feel bad for the children who are forced to read this.   
zissa122 More than 1 year ago
Nothing But the Truth was pretty good… for a school mandatory book. I was kind of frustrated with the writing style. It was different, but not necessarily a good OR bad different. It was an interesting read. DEFINITELY not something I would choose to read, but it was good. I REALLY liked the ending. I could NOT STOP LAUGHING!  I felt like there wasn't even a aware going on between Phillip and Miss Narwin. Phillip was just mad that he couldn't be on the track team. He didn't ASK to be interviewed or anything. His parents made a big deal, which made EVERYONE think it was a big deal. I felt bad for both Phillip and Miss Narwin at the end because Phillip's classmates hated him, and Miss Narwin resigned.  Overall, Nothing But the Truth was very humorous and yet still showed a point. I really liked it, which surprised me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nothing but the truth is a book about this boy names Philip Malloy . He is in junior high and has problems with his English teacher. He always has problems with her and always will.  The main point of this book is that Philip thinks his English teacher Miss Narwin has it out for him and hates him.  She yells at him because he hums/sings the pledge and your not suppose to its suppose to be quiet during that time.   This is a very good book. But yes I think it’s a stupid reason for him to get in all the trouble he does because it’s a stupid reason. That may be his religion is to sing it every morning not just be quiet bout it. I would say you should read this book.   nothing but the truth is a really good book, I would say you should read it because you would probably like it . But the main pint is to say how he gets in trouble and not to be a bad kid and listen in school 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing but the Truth by AVI is an excellent fictional book that would appeal to teenagers everywhere. It is about a ninth grader, Phillip Malloy, who wants to go out for track but is unable to because of his barely passing grade in his English class. Thinking that Miss Narwin is out to get him, he creates a disturbance by humming while the national anthem is playing. Things become out of hand when Phillip tells a reporter what happened, and winds up making his teacher the bad guy when it was really Phillip’s fault. The author’s purpose in writing this book is to show people that a little lie can go a long way. This book will appeal to most young adults because it is talking about a kid around their age group. This book, in my opinion, is quite interesting and keeps you guessing about what will happen next through the whole book. I would recommend this book to a lot of young readers out there.
triplet_mom More than 1 year ago
An excellent fast reading book about what can happen to all the people involved on both sides, when someone steps forward to point out that their rights are being violated. A lot of good discussion for students about what can happen, how it can effect the lives of of the people involved and the roll the media can play in the situtation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a ninth grade student trying to get into track, but is failing in English cause he thinks the teacher is out for him. So he is going to try and get out of the teacher's class by singing along during the Star Spangled Anthem in the morning. But soon to figure out, not only does this go on in his region, but on the news as well.In my opion, the book wasn't all that good. I was expecting more in this but didn't quiet get it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the book, "Nothing But the Truth" by Avi is an okay book. I like the plot because it was a scene I've never read before. It was interesting how being suspended could be all over the newspaper and T.V. What I don't like about the book is that the characters and names are confusing. The name changes sometimes throughout the book.
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
I use this book in my 8th grade classroom. The documentary (play-like format) makes it a nice interactive reading experience. Philip attempts to cover-up his bad grade with some less than truthful information, however, readers learn his choices were not wise. Lots of opportunity for discussion and writing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was depressed for several days after reading this book. There are so many parallels to what life is like in America -- that if the lie is inflammatory enough, it takes on a life of it's own and woe to those and the truth when it gets in the way of the desire to be angry.
foreverKC More than 1 year ago
The story "Nothing But the Truth" by Avi had a great moral, or the lesson that was learned. Taking place in Harrison, NH, Phillip Malloy, a ninth grader at Harrison High School, was suspended for humming along with the national anthem. Though he was doing it to be disruptive, little lies make it a countrywide argument. This fictional story was very life-like and seemed so realistic. Phillip Malloy, the main character, had to learn the hard way about what could happen when a lie is told. He, wanting to make a nuisance, started to hum along with our national anthem when it was played over the intercom at school. The rules vaguely stated that the student body should stand at a respectful silence. That didn't stop Phillip, though. He was put into a class with a teacher he wasn't fond of. To irritate her, he wouldn't listen, therefore got himself sent to the assistant principle. After getting sent to the assistant principle more than once about the same thing, he got the choice to go apologize, or get suspended for two days. His excuse was that he was very patriotic and it was his right to sing along with our national anthem. Refusing to apologize, Phillip got his parents called to come pick him up for his suspension. Very confused, Phillip's parents came to get him. After Phillip told them what was a little bit of a lie, they felt compelled to go talk to someone about this. Their neighbor was trying for a spot on the board, so they went to talk to him. After hearing only part of the story, he invited them inside to tell his story to a news reporter who was waiting to talk about the board. When the reporter heard the story Philip was telling, she immediately started asking questions and trying to get a better understanding of what no one knew wasn't the full truth. The reporter wrote out a story and published it in the newspapers. People read it and then told other people what was happening. Making its way around, the issue got bigger and bigger. I personally thought this book was a life lesson put into the form of a play. It had suspense along with sadness and disappointments. However, I didn't like how this book ended. There was no happy ending for anyone, not even Phillip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
'Nothing but the Truth' is a fictional story written by Avi Wortis. About a ninth grade boy named Philip Malloy who has been having problems with his English teacher Miss Narwin. He got his report card for the semester and found out he's failing English and he wanted to try out for track but if you don't have a passing grade in all your classes you can't try out. He goes home and tells his parents that it's the teachers fault and they believe him. His dad told him to stick up for himself but instead of sticking up for himself he tried getting back. So the next morning during the announcements when the National Anthem is played he decided to hum along. Miss Narwin told him to stop and he did. The next day when they came one he was humming once again and this time he didn't stop. After the announcements were over Miss Narwin sent him to the assistant principal's office. They had a talk and the principle told him to stop and sent him back on his way. He continued to do it again the next day and got sent back to the office. The school policy is two trips to the office is a two day suspension. His record was clean and the principle didn't want that to change so he gave him a chance to apologize and not get suspended but he wouldn't. He came home that day and his mom was upset a little but the dad was not because his dad was happy that he stood up for his rights. Within these next two days the whole nation will have heard about what happened. When Phil's dad got home from work they went to their next door neighbors house Ted Griffin because he was running for the school board and they wanted to see if he could help. When they got there Ted was so furious that he had a reporter from the Manchester Record make it a story. From there she took the story from Phil's point of you first not the teachers. Phil thought this could be his chance to get back at Miss Narwin so he blew it way out of proportion. The Manchester record reporter asked Miss Narwin but she did not want tome comment. Within the next twenty-four hours this was a big story. Part of it read "10th grader from Harrison high school in New Hampshire got suspended for being a patriot." This caught the eyes of reporters everywhere also caught the eye of the superintendent. He found out about it and was furious, he called the principle and she said she had no idea even though the assistant principle left her a note saying what happened. So they called the assistant principle and he said that yes it's true and that Philip was being a disturbance to the class and got sent to the office twice. The principle left it alone for awhile thinking that it would blow over. He was more worried about the school budget then some story that he thought was no big deal. During Phil's second day of suspension there were reporters from Missouri contacting the superintendent and wanted to know why the poor boy got suspended for singing the National Anthem. He wasn't the only one that was contacted they also called the assistant principle, the principle, and the English teacher Miss Narwin. Everyone started to wonder how many people knew about this so called little news story. The principle and the assistant principle got together and decided to give Miss Narwin a paid leave of absence she wasn't dumb she knew they wanted her to resign. A few weeks later after all that happened his mom pulled Phil out of Harrison High and put him into a private school. His first day there his new teacher offered hi