cover image The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle over Teaching Evolution

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

Anita Sanchez. Clarion, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-3584-5769-5

Sanchez (Save the...Whale Sharks) brings a sense of immediacy to a 1925 watershed event that still echoes in American politics and discourse. Education, religion, and nascent media came together in a narrative nonfiction telling of the trial of John Scopes, a Dayton, Tenn., educator who taught Darwin’s theory of evolution, violating a state law that criminalized such actions. Scopes had been asked to “stand for a test case” by local businessmen hoping to profit from national attention around the engineered trial. The ordeal pitted the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought to defend educators prosecuted under the law, against fundamentalist Christians concerned about the impact of teaching evolution in lieu of creation. Through photographs and conversational prose, Sanchez shows how sleepy Dayton became a “circus,” experiencing throngs of visitors, chimpanzees promoting local businesses, and crowds eager for the main event: a highly publicized courtroom face-off between defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and prosecuting lawyer William Jennings Bryan, both previously regarded as men of the people. “Media in the Spotlight” sections contextualize the role of newspapers, newsreels, and radio in spreading information. It’s a lively, solidly researched tale that delivers enduring truths about the lure of controversy. Ages 8–12. Agent: Regina Ryan, Regina Ryan Publishing. (Mar.)