Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle Over Teaching Evolution by Anita Sanchez

The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle Over Teaching Evolution

Anita Sanchez

Clarion Books. An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 2023

In May of 1925, John Scopes was twenty-four years old and worked as a substitute teacher at Rhea Central High School, Dayton, Tennessee. On one particular day, because none of the students were paying attention to the review for an upcoming test, John Scopes decided to read from their textbook, Civil Biology. No one remembered what John Scopes read that day from the textbook. Yet, little did Scopes know that soon he would make a major decision that would forever change his life. You see, the textbook contained a chapter on evolution.

In January of 1925, John Butler was a member of the Tennessee state legislature. Butler, a devout Christian, proposed a bill that would make it illegal to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught by the Bible.” In this riveting account, Monkey Trial follows the court room battle, the trial of the century, that caused a bitter division across the United States, but at its heart was the quiet dignity of a young teacher who stood up for a students’ right to learn.

In her author’s note, Sanchez states, “For some writers of history, the problem is finding information. But when I began to research the Scopes trial, I soon discovered that there was no lack of information - I was buried in it. The trial was covered by more than two hundred reporters, who collectively wrote more than two million words about the trial, the town, and the people in it.” One of those sources was John Scopes autobiography. “He preserved the flavor of the times, right down to the delicious sodas in Doc Robinson’s drugstore.”

Award-winning author, Sanchez (Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers) does a remarkable job of presenting the facts without taking sides. In this time of book banning and pressure to re-write history, The Monkey Trial is a good jumping off point for discussions.

Black & white photos, along with text blocks placed throughout that offer more information on what is being mentioned in the text makes this narrative nonfiction titles a page-turner.

Includes author’s note, glossary of legal terms, source notes, image credits, bibliography,resources for young readers, and index. Readers will appreciate the evolutionary timeline that begins with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of the Species and ends with 2019…and then…? 

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