Monday, June 16, 2008

Pg. 99: Jen Bryant's "Ringside, 1925"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Jen Bryant's Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial.

About the book, from the publisher:
The year is 1925, and the students of Dayton, Tennessee, are ready for a summer of fishing, swimming, some working, and drinking root beer floats at Robinson’s Drugstore. But when their science teacher, J. T. Scopes, is arrested for having taught Darwin’s theory of evolution in class, it seems it won’t be just any ordinary summer in Dayton.

As Scopes’ trial proceeds, the small town is faced with astonishing, nationwide publicity: reporters, lawyers, scientists, religious leaders, and tourists. But amidst the circus-like atmosphere is a threatening sense of tension–not only in the courtroom, but among even the strongest of friends. This compelling novel in poems chronicles a controversy with a profound impact on science and culture in America–and one that continues to this day.
Among the praise for Ringside, 1925:
“Why not break the law and bring in some tourists? Conjuring fictionalized inhabitants of crumbling Dayton, Tenn., home of the infamous Scopes “monkey trial,” Bryant (The Trial) lets her characters speak directly, in well-honed verse that illuminates a broad range of perspectives. Overheard near a drugstore soda fountain, scheming business owners and a publicity-chasing superintendent get permission from a popular teacher, J.T. Scopes, to arrest him for violating the Butler Act, which bans the teaching of evolution. Adventure-seeking kids, skeptical journalists, erudite scientists, curious townsfolk and one shrill evangelical all have their say on the ensuing battle between silver-tongued prosecutor William Jennings Bryan and sharp-witted defense lawyer Clarence Darrow. Bryant obviously sympathizes with Darrow and the Darwinists, but she doesn't heavily stack the deck: the eloquent insights she attributes to her characters are evenly distributed. Nor does she go out of her way to emphasize the timeliness of the topic. The colorful facts she retrieves, the personal story lines and the deft rhythm of the narrative are more than enough invitation to readers to ponder the issues she raises."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] compelling and well-researched novel. It is fast-paced, interesting, and relevant to many current first-amendment challenges."
--School Library Journal
Read an excerpt from Ringside, 1925. For educators and book groups, both the author and the publisher provide additional reading suggestions and websites as well as a downloadable discussion guide.

Jen Bryant teaches Children’s Literature at West Chester University and lives in Pennsylvania. She has published poetry, biographies for young readers, and picture books.

The Page 99 Test: Ringside, 1925.

--Marshal Zeringue