No Talking


Andrew Clements

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Minimum grade level: 


Dave is a fifth grade boy who loves to talk and talk and talk. About everything. And Dave has “zero tolerance for girls.” Lynsey is a fifth grade girl who also talks a lot. Once she gets going, it seems like she can talk "for a million minutes in a row without stopping.” And Lynsey has “less than zero tolerance for boys.” So when Dave tells Lynsey that “if you had to shut up for five minutes, I bet the top of your head would explode,” it’s a very dangerous thing to say. After a lively exchange of insults and threats, Dave dares Lynsey to accept a challenge: all fifth graders will have to stop talking for two full days, at school and at home. “Not in class, not in the halls, not in the playground, nowhere…And it’s a contest – boys against girls. Whichever side talks less wins.” And that’s why at noon on Tuesday the school lunchroom packed with fifth graders is deadly silent, for the first time ever. That’s why the afternoon music class is filled with the sounds of humming, instead of singing. And it’s why on the playground at recess you can hear whistles, burps, quacks, barks, and screams, but no actual words. When the school principal discovers what’s going on, though, she has a pretty good idea that Dave and Lynsey are the ringleaders. She decides to put a stop to all of the nonsense. Which means that the “no talking” contest is no longer just boys vs. girls; it’s also kids vs. grownups.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Would it be hard for you to not talk for two days? What would be the most difficult part?
  2. Dave and Lynsey start out as enemies, but end up kind of liking each other. What are some of the reasons for these changes?
  3. How do different teachers react once they learn about the contest? How would you have reacted if you were a teacher?
  4. At one point Dave wishes that the no talking contest “didn’t have to be a war.” What makes him feel this way?
  5. Which would be harder for you: not talking at home or not talking at school?
  6. What are some of the tricky ways kids manage to communicate without breaking the “no talking” rule. Can you think of some other ways that would work?
  7. If you held a “no talking” contest with your friends or family, who do you think would win? Why?
  8. Mr. Burton wants to use the “no talking” contest for his research project. What are some of the interesting scientific observations he makes?
  9. In this fifth grade class, “the boys avoid the girls, and the girls avoid the boys.” Can you find any examples that show how the contest changed this?
  10. The last chapter is called “Winners.” Who were the real winners of the contest? Were there any losers?

If you liked this book, try

  • Thirteen Ways to Sink a Sub by Jamie Gilson
  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman
  • The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.