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Ringside, 1925
Cover of Ringside, 1925
Ringside, 1925
Views from the Scopes Trial
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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...
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...
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  • 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.


  • From the book Peter Sykes
    That morning, Jimmy and me had hiked
    clear to Connor's Pond, halfway up the mountain,
    and back again. I hooked four bass

    and three brown trout. Jimmy, who loves fishing
    more than just about anything, caught
    a dozen bluegills and a huge catfish his mother

    promised to fry us for dinner. Soon as we got
    back, we stashed our poles under the porch
    and ran to Robinson's store for root beer floats.

    We were sitting at the soda fountain,
    sucking on our straws and listening to
    Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the radio,

    when Mr. Walter White asked: "You boys seen
    Mr. Scopes?" With school being out and it being
    summer, we figured the new science teacher
    must be in trouble. But Mr. White is our
    school superintendent, so we figured
    we'd be in bigger trouble if we didn't tell.

    "We saw him a half hour ago," I said,
    "heading over to the school."
    "Dressed for tennis," Jimmy added.

    He hurried back to the table where
    Mr. Robinson and Mr. Rappleyea waited.
    Then the Hicks brothers, both Dayton lawyers,

    showed up in their jalopy
    and all five of them jabbered
    like magpies at a picnic.

    Willy Amos
    Those big ol' houses at the edge of town . . .
    Pa says they were once grand and beautiful.
    Now they're mostly heaps of bricks,
    wood planks, broken glass. Some got
    trees growin' right out the roofs, vines
    twistin' out the doorways.

    Pa says back before I was born, when the mines
    were open and the furnaces made metal
    for the railroads and tall city buildin's,
    white families lived there—
    "lace curtains in the windows, easy chairs
    an' daisies on the porches in summer," Pa says.

    Well, that sure ain't how it looks this summer.
    There's skunks in the cellar,
    bats in the attic,
    mice in the kitchen sink.

    When I'm not helpin' Pa, I come here
    to root through the hallways and closets,
    searchin' for somethin' I might be able
    to fix up and sell—a flower vase,
    a tin box, a watch face left behind
    when those families moved to places
    where jobs come easier.

    'Most every year
    the town council changes the number
    on the little wooden sign
    sayin' how many folks live here:
    3,000, 2,600, 2,100, . . . and last year 1,800.

    Pa and me, we don't got much need
    for big numbers. I'm not sure what they mean,
    'ceptin' I know that the first one
    is biggest and the last one is smallest
    and that means people are leavin'.

    Twelve. Now that's a number I'm used to.
    I was born here twelve years back:
    May 1913. I ain't never lived anyplace
    but Dayton, Tennessee,
    so that last number
    still seems like plenty of folks to me.

    But maybe someday, if I move to a big city
    like New Orleans, Chicago, or Detroit,
    get me a steady job,
    I'll live near even more people,
    and a lot fewer
    mice and skunks.

    Jimmy Lee Davis
    Tarnation! Poor Mr. Scopes!
    He didn't know why
    Mr. White came
    to fetch him from
    his tennis game
    & bring him into Robinson's.
    Me & Pete sipped
    our sodas & listened
    as he confessed
    that back in the spring
    when we were still in school,
    he assigned us
    the chapter on evolution,
    which explained how
    all the animals on earth
    had started as simpler creatures
    millions of years ago,
    & how, over time,
    they changed & developed
    into the insects, birds,
    fish, & mammals
    we see today,
    & how, even now,
    they were still changing.
    (I try not to think of
    fish as my ancestors
    when I'm cleaning them.)

    Mr. Robinson held up a copy

About the Author-

  • Jen Bryant teaches Children's Literature at West Chester University and lives in Pennsylvania.

    From the Hardcover...


  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 25, 2008
    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. Ages 12-up.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2008
    Gr 8 Up-Nothing much happened in Dayton, TN, until the summer of 1925. That was the year that J. T. Scopes, a science teacher at Rhea County High School, asked students to read a chapter on evolution from their textbook. Tennessee had recently passed a law against the teaching of evolution in public schools, and the American Civil Liberties Union was seeking an opportunity to prove that this law was unconstitutional. Mr. Robinson, a local store owner, thought that Scopes could bring publicity to the town and boost its stagnant economy, if he would submit to a trial. The ACLU pledged support, and the teacher found himself in the middle of one of the most controversial trials of the century. What ensued was a circuslike atmosphere that surprised and eventually divided the residents of Dayton. This novel in verse chronicles the events and drama of the trial. There is a host of characters, both fictitious and real: J. T. Scopes (real), William Jennings Bryan (real), Mr. Robinson (real), Clarence Darrow (real), Paul Lebrun (fictitious), and many students and citizens (fictitious). The poems are in first person, giving a voice to all primary stakeholdersthe citizens, young and old, who are stunned by the chaos that erupts in their tiny town. The epilogue provides information about the events and the people following the trial. Bryant offers readers a ringside seat in this compelling and well-researched novel. It is fast-paced, interesting, and relevant to many current first-amendment challenges. Students who like this novel will also enjoy Robin Brande's "Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature" (Knopf, 2007)."Pat Scales, formerly at South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville"

    Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Random House Children's Books
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Views from the Scopes Trial
Jen Bryant
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