The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle

by Leslie Connor
Grade 3-7


Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard.

An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground haven for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin and, eventually, Benny.

But will anyone believe him?

Discussion questions from SOMN

  • In chapter one, you learn that Mason has difficulty with spelling: “I can see the letters. But for me they go ugly. The fade or swell up. They slide away. If my eyes had pinchers on them. I’d grab at the letters and hold them still.” Mason is describing dyslexia, a disorder that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. Dyslexia is not an indicator of intelligence, but because of his learning disability Mason does not consider himself to be smart. What does he mean when he reveals, “I have been with my brain for twelve long years?” (page 2) As you read the story, discuss scenes in which Mason’s intelligence is evident. How does Mason slowly come to realize that he is a smart person?
  • Mason and other students like to visit the school social worker’s office, known as the SWOOF. Discuss the character of Ms. Blinny. How does she make the SWOOF a safe haven for Mason and the other kids? How does she help Mason believe in himself? Discuss the significance of Ms. Blinny changing the message on Mason’s T-shirt from STOOPID to Thinks Outside the Box. How does this act help Mason salvage his integrity after being humiliated by Matt Drinker? Ms. Blinny says, “Your shirt makes a statement and asks a question. It is a curiosity!” (page 10) What is a curiosity? Discuss examples throughout the text where curiosity appears. How is curiosity a theme of the story?
  • The story is told in the first person present tense. Why do you think the author chose to tell her story this way? How does Mason’s way of speaking and forming sentences help you get to know how he thinks, and how he struggles with language?
  • On page 308, Uncle Drum tells Mason, “People are just looking for one kindness.” Discuss kindness as a theme in the story. Cite examples from the text. How did kindness prevail? The final sentence in the text is: “Knowing what you love is smart.” Discuss what Mason means by this statement.

Classroom activities from SOMN

  • Essay: On page 314, Andy Kilmartin says, “I forgot who you are, Mason.” After reading the text, challenge each student to write a short essay entitled, “Who Is Mason Buttle?” Encourage students to describe Mason as a person, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he changed over the course of the story. Students should include examples from the text to support their ideas.
  • Design and make T-shirts: When Ms. Blinny sees Mason’s T-shirt with the word STOOPID written on it, she covers the derogatory word with duct tape and uses a Sharpie to draw a picture of a box and the words: “Thinks Outside the…” Have students brainstorm mottoes about thinking. Examples might include: “Think Positively” or “Think with an Open Mind.” Have students bring in a plain T-shirt. Provide fabric paints (or duct tape and Sharpies) to create a personalized “Think Shirt.”
  • Story of you: When Mason is first introduced to the voice-recognition program that helps him write, he is amazed. For the first time in his life he is writing without the struggle caused by dyslexia. Ms. Blinny tells him, “It’s the story of you. You can use it to dump all the stuff that’s on your mind.” Have students begin a “Story of You” project as they read the text. (For students with language-based learning disabilities, work with the school special education teacher to acquire VR software.)