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Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial
Simon & Schuster, 2006
  • Books for the Teen Age (New York Public Library)
  • Best Books for Young Adults Nominee (American Library Association)
  • Notable Children's Book Nominee (American Library Association)
  • Tennessee State Book (National Book Festival/Library of Congress)

When school lets out in sleepy Dayton, Tennessee, fifteen-year-old Frances Robinson has one thing on her mind—spending time with handsome schoolteacher Johnny Scopes. But when Frances’s father has Johnny arrested for teaching evolution, overnight Dayton becomes the center of the universe. Every bigwig, from Clarence Darrow to William Jennings Bryan to H.L. Mencken, is heading south. As the fire and brimstone heat up in court, Johnny begins to struggle. And Frances has never been more at odds with her father, or more in love with the teacher whose trial made the whole world stop and think.

Ronald Kidd brings to life a controversy that dates back to 1925 in a coming-of-age novel that evokes To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind.

Excerpt

     “Grits are the blandest food in creation,” said H.L. Mencken. “They taste like library paste. But Miss Sara taught me something very interesting. If you add cheese and garlic, they’re delicious. That’s the way it is with the truth. You can offer it up bland, or you can add a dish of criticism and exaggeration. Season to taste and serve.”
     I said, “I was taught that if it’s not true, it’s a lie.”
     “If only life were that simple,” said Mencken.

Reviews

“Weaving a somber yet witty narrative around a pivotal event, this fast-paced drama is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Kidd's personal relationship with account witnesses and his talent for storytelling create a unique and heartfelt story of a likable girl maturing through an unforgettable summer in American history. An excellent read and a wonderful piece of literature.”

School Library Journal (starred)

“Drawing incidents, dialogue, and all but a few minor members of the cast from the historical record, Kidd views the Scopes trial through the eyes of a teenaged local—weaving in a thoughtful coming-of-age tale in the process…. [Readers] will be pleased by the depth of character and ideas here.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)