Marshmallow reviews Nothing But The Truth by Avi

Marshmallow first read Avi’s Nothing But The Truth in school. Then this summer, during the book bunnies’ break, she had reason to get back to this documentary novel once more. Below she shares her thoughts on this book, first written in 1991 by Avi, the author of the Tales from Dimwood Forest series that Caramel reviewed several times times for this blog.

Marshmallow reviews Nothing But The Truth: a documentary novel by Avi.
Marshmallow reviews Nothing But The Truth: a documentary novel by Avi.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about school or you like thinking about different perspectives on a particular event, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Philip Malloy is a high school student who loves running but dislikes his English teacher. He thinks that she is out to get him. When he learns that he needs to get a passing grade in every class to try out for the track team, he decides he needs to get moved out of his English class.  

His teacher, Miss Narwin, thinks that Philip is smart, but that he does not work hard. During English class, Philip constantly makes rude comments and disrupts the class. Now that he has moved to Miss Narwin’s homeroom, he starts to hum or sing during the daily playing of the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”. (It is unclear whether he hums or sings, as the characters believe different things happened.) The school’s rule is to stand in respectful silence while the anthem is played, so Miss Narwin tells him to stop doing what he is doing.

Philip hums or sings during the anthem a total of three times on three different days, hoping he’ll annoy his teacher enough to be moved to a different class. The third time he does it, Miss Narwin tells him to go to the office. There, the assistant principal asks him to apologize to Miss Narwin. Philip refuses, though he is threatened with suspension and a bad mark on his record. Eventually he is suspended and his mother is called to pick him up.

Philip tells his parents that Miss Narwin yelled at him for singing or humming. His parents tell their neighbor Ted Griffen about the event. Griffen is running for the school board, so when he hears about this story, he wants to have it published in the papers. He contacts a journalist to ask some questions about the event, and soon, the journalist writes an article about the event titled “Kicked Out Of School For Patriotism”. The article spreads the news about Philip’s suspension, and soon, people around the country have all heard about the event.

People start to send telegrams to the school, Miss Narwin, and Philip Malloy. The telegrams to the school say that they should fire Miss Narwin. The ones to Miss Narwin say things like, “Surely you have something better to do with your classroom authority than attacking kids who express their love of our country.” The telegrams sent to Philip support his “patriotism”. As the book progresses, it gets harder and harder to tell what really happened and who is telling the truth. 

Marshmallow is reading Nothing But The Truth: a documentary novel by Avi.
Marshmallow is reading Nothing But The Truth: a documentary novel by Avi.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Nothing But The Truth is a really interesting book. It is written like a play when there is dialogue (with minimal narration), but the author also shows us excerpts from Philip’s diary, memos, letters, and more. I can see why it is called a documentary novel: it seems to be documenting a real event with different kinds of documents that the reader needs to interpret to understand what really happened. I also found it interesting to read Avi’s explanation of how he ended up writing this book.

The characters themselves are really realistic, with normal hobbies and everything, though they are not always trustable (similar to books or movies with unreliable narrators). The author, Avi, does a great job in making you feel really annoyed by certain characters. And you also sympathize with some of them.

I really liked how Nothing But The Truth keeps you thinking about what really has happened and how you can’t always trust the information that you are given. Its central story has many different interpretations, and what is true, and what is right, is not always what it seems.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Nothing But The Truth by Avi 95%.
Marshmallow rates Nothing But The Truth by Avi 95%.

Caramel reviews Poppy and Ereth by Avi

Caramel has enjoyed reading the adventures of animals living in and around Dimwood Forest. And he has already reviewed RagweedPoppyPoppy and Rye, Ereth’s Birthday, and Poppy’s Return for the book bunnies blog. Today he reviews Poppy and Ereth, the last book in this series by Avi. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Caramel reviews Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Sprinkles: Tell us a bit about this book Caramel.

Caramel: I hated the way it ended. I think Avi ruined everything!

S: Okay, that is a little strong, especially coming from you. I think you mean he did end the story in a very conclusive way, right?

C: I would say it a bit differently.

S: I know you did not like the end, but then again, if the author managed to get such a strong reaction from you, I am guessing that means he did a really good job creating this world and these characters that meant a lot to you.

C: Yes, that is correct. I still did not like what he did in the end.

S: Well, I have not yet read this one, so would you tell me not to?

C: I would. Do not read this book!

S: But I am a bit curious. The title makes me want to read it because I like Ereth and I am thinking this book will have more of his adventures with Poppy.

C: Well, they are both in the book, but they’re not together most of the time. Still yes, there are some adventures and I like Ereth, too.

S: So except for the very end where the author decided to finish things off with full certainty, is the story interesting?

C: Yes. Poppy gets caught and flown away by bats and has a lot of adventures. And Ereth thinks she is dead and plans a funeral for her.

S: I can see that being a good setup for both fun and adventure.

C: Yes, there is that in the book. But the end is sad, and there is some more sad stuff at the beginning too. I don’t know why Avi puts so many sad things into his books.

Caramel is reading Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Caramel is reading Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.

S: When you were reviewing Charlotte’s Web, you did say you don’t like sad books.

C: That’s true. I don’t like sad books, really.

S: So would you categorize this book as a sad book?

C: Yes. Both the beginning and the end have sad things happen, and all throughout, Ereth keeps talking about funerals and himself.

S: So you did not find it amusing or joyful as the other books in the series, then.

C: I like joyful. I did not think this was very joyful.

S: I think you just really did not like the fact that the author ended it so conclusively.

C: Yes. I wanted to know more about the creatures in Dimwood Forest, but now after what happens in the end-

S: Okay, let us not give things away that much. I think there might still be bunnies who will want to read the book for themselves. I think I will read it. I am curious to see how everything is tied up.

C: Well, as long as you are prepared for the sad parts, I can see you wanting to do that.

S: Yes, it would provide closure. That means a way of tying loose ends and letting go. This article talks about it in the context of relationships but it says it well:

a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new … in order to find different possibilities.

C: So are you trying to tell me that Avi wanted to write about something else? Some new characters and new places and new adventures?

S: Yes. And you as the reader can also move on and read about other characters and enjoy new and completely different adventures.

C: But I did not want to. I liked these characters and I liked Dimwood Forest.

S: I know. I suppose this is kind of like life. Sometimes we need to move on even when we don’t yet feel ready. So now you have finished reading all the Poppy books. Do you look over them and smile or do you have some lingering unhappiness about them?

C: Yes, I liked them. I liked Poppy and her family and Ereth, and all the other different characters in their lives. I think I have a smile on my face.

S: Yes, I love that smile on your face. Can you give me two more words, besides sad, that can describe this last book so we leave things on a happier note?

C: Adventurous, because Poppy again finds herself in a new adventure. And funny, because there is a point where Ereth is trying to smile. He is funny.

S: Okay, I am good with these three words. I think this will be the next book I read. In the meantime you can tell our readers to …

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Having read Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca, Caramel will remember the series with a smile.
Having read Poppy and Ereth, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca, Caramel will remember the series with a smile.

Caramel reviews Poppy’s Return by Avi

Caramel has enjoyed reading the adventures of animals living in and around Dimwood Forest. And he has already reviewed RagweedPoppyPoppy and Rye, and Ereth’s Birthday for the book bunnies blog. Today he reviews Poppy’s Return, the next book in this series by Avi. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Poppy's Return, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Caramel reviews Poppy’s Return, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Sprinkles: Caramel, you just finished another Poppy book!

Caramel: Yes!

S: So what will you tell us about it?

C: This book is about Poppy who is going back to her childhood home, the Gray House. When she gets there, she sees there is trouble there.

S: Oh, that sounds serious.

C: Oh yes, it is. Poppy’s dad is sick and there is an ominous bulldozer outside, waiting to destroy the Gray House.

S: That is pretty scary. The mice who live in the Gray House are not used to living anywhere else, so they must be very worried, right?

C: Yes. Ereth the porcupine creates more problems though. He starts the bulldozer!

S: That is terrible! Okay, so there are many scary and dangerous things happening or about to happen.

C: Yes, but it is also very funny. Ereth says many funny things, some of the words are made-up I think. He is my favorite character.

S: I know you enjoyed reading Ereth’s Birthday, and it was partially because you like Ereth so much. Is he still as grumpy as before?

C: Yes he is. And maybe even more because Poppy left him behind. She did not want him to come with her. But he did follow her anyway.

Caramel is reading Poppy's Return by Avi.
Caramel is reading Poppy’s Return by Avi.

S: Okay, we told our readers a lot already about the storyline. Let us talk about the book more generally. So what three words would you use to describe this book?

C: Adventurous, funny, and interesting.

S: Those are good words Caramel. So did you like the book?

C: Yes.

S: I have not yet read this one. Do you think I should?

C: Yes. I think all bunnies should read it. If you liked the other Poppy books you will like this too.

S: I did enjoy all the other books, so okay, I will read this then. Thank you for the recommendation. Now there is one more book in the Dimwood Forest series. It is called Poppy and Ereth. I have a feeling you will want to read that one too.

C: I think so. I want to know what more adventures Poppy and Ereth will have together.

S: And the title tells us that they will definitely both be in the book.

C: So you should take this book now and start reading. I will get started with the other one.

S: That makes sense to me Caramel. So let us wrap up this review. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Poppy's Return by Avi and is looking forward to reading the nest and last book in the series soon.
Caramel enjoyed reading Poppy’s Return by Avi and is looking forward to reading the nest and last book in the series soon.

Caramel reviews Ereth’s Birthday by Avi

Caramel has enjoyed reading the adventures of animals living in and around Dimwood Forest. And he has already reviewed Ragweed, Poppy, and Poppy and Rye for the book bunnies blog. Today he reviews Ereth’s Birthday, the next book in this series by Avi. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Ereth's Birthday, written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Caramel reviews Ereth’s Birthday,written by Avi and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, tell us about this book.

Caramel: This book is about Ereth, who is a porcupine. Poppy met him in the book Poppy. But we met him before that, in Ragweed and Poppy.

S: I remember Ereth. He is a bit grumpy, right?

C: Yes, maybe more than a little.

S: So tell me more. What happens in the book?

C: The book starts on Ereth’s birthday. And he thinks that his best friend, that is Poppy the mouse, and her husband, that is Rye, forgot about him.

S: That must make him even grumpier then.

C: Yes. He kind of likes Poppy, too, so…

S: Yes, I remember that too. Ereth is rather fond of Poppy, and is very sensitive, too, but he won’t admit it.

C: Yes. Pretty much.

S: So I read all the books from this series before this one. Should I read this too?

C: Yes! You should!

S: Why?

C: Because it is a very good book. I like the plot. I also like Ereth a lot. He is funny.

S: Are there new characters in this one?

C: Yes, there are some different characters. Poppy and Rye have children, and they show up. And there is also Marty the Fisher.

S: Do you know what a fisher is?

C: Not really, but it must be an animal that can hurt porcupines.

S: Oo, so Ereth has an enemy?

C: Sort of, but he doesn’t really know it.

S: Hmm, that sounds interesting. By the way apparently a fisher is a carnivorous animal that lives in forests.

C: Are they going extinct?

S: Wikipedia seems to say no.

C: Marty the Fisher said that people hunted them down.

S: Yes, Wikipedia says people liked their fur. But apparently though they lost a lot of their habitat in recent times, they are not in danger of going extinct.

C: Phew! That’s good.

Caramel is reading Ereth's Birthday by Avi.
Caramel is reading Ereth’s Birthday by Avi.

S: Did you know that this was Avi’s favorite among the Poppy books? He wrote that this has the most autobiographical content and that Ereth becoming a reluctant step-father is similar to himself being a step-father.

C: I didn’t know that!

S: I didn’t, either. But tell me more about this step-parenting.

C: Ereth has to take care of three kits.

S: What’s a kit?

C: A kit is a young fox.

S: So how does Ereth take these three foxes under his care?

C: He meets their mother, she is caught in a trap, and she asks him to take care of her three kits. And Ereth promises to do it.

S: And he keeps his promise?

C: Yes.

S: This is sounding more and more interesting as you reveal more. I might have to read it after all…

C: In fact you should! And you shall!

S: Okay, okay, don’t push now. Let us wrap up the review then so you can give the book to me. What are your three words for the book?

C: Awesome, interesting, good characters.

S: Hmm, that might work. I have a feeling it is also a sweet story. Would you say so?

C: Yes, I guess so.

S: Alright, let us close up then so I can get reading. What do you say to our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Ereth's Birthday by Avi, and he is looking forward to reading the next books in the series.
Caramel enjoyed reading Ereth’s Birthday by Avi, and he is looking forward to reading the next books in the series.