First of all, let me wish a happy Independence Day to all of my American friends and followers. It’s pouring rain here in South Carolina, but that’s not stopping my neighbors from shooting off fireworks every time there’s a break in the thunderstorms. It’s kind of annoying, but I can’t begrudge them celebrating this holiday (unless they persist with the fireworks when I’m ready to go to sleep…like they did last night). However you decide to celebrate–fireworks, cookouts, camping, staying inside reading, whatever–I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July!
Moving on…I’ve just finished reading yet another of the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. (For those keeping track, I’ve now read sixteen of the nominated titles. Only four to go!) My latest read is Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff, and, in my opinion, it is a great addition to libraries and classrooms that serve both elementary and middle grade students. Double Dog Dare, told in alternating voices, revolves around two fourth-graders, but I do think a lot of middle school students will find this story both relatable and entertaining. (The title alone, which brings to mind the fantastic movie A Christmas Story, may be enough of a hook to get some more precocious readers interested in this charming book.)
Kansas Bloom and Francine Halata are up for the same job. Both of them have been nominated to be the fourth grade Media Club’s news anchor for next semester, and their teacher is leaving it up to them to figure out who should get the job. Well, that may not be the smartest idea when a group of fourth-graders is involved. It seems that the job will go to whoever wins a Dare War. The members of the Media Club will vote on dares for Kansas and Francine to complete, and the person who finishes the most dares before winter break will win the anchor job. What could go wrong? (If you guessed pretty much everything, you’re on the right track.)
Almost immediately, the dares in this war get both Kansas and Francine into a bit of trouble. But their troubles are not limited to vying for the anchor position. Kansas has just moved to California from Oregon, and his mom is divorcing his dad after years of turmoil. His little sister is convinced that Dad will eventually return for good, but Kansas isn’t so sure. Kansas is sure, though, that he absolutely must win this Dare War…even though he didn’t really want the anchor job at first.
Francine, who has longed to be anchor for a while, will do whatever it takes to get the job…even if it means eating eighty-seven packets of ketchup, dying her hair green, or going into the boys bathroom. But there may be something she wants more than this position. She wants her parents to get back together. Her dad has moved out, and he and her mom are getting divorced. Francine wonders if there’s anything she could do to fix her family, but how can she do that when her own life is quickly spiraling out of control?
It’s clear than Kansas and Francine have more in common than either of them realize. And when the Dare War comes to a head, will they be able to put aside their battle, work together, and form a friendship in the midst of so much uncertainty? Who will win the coveted anchor job? I double dog dare you to find out when you read Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff!
Double Dog Dare was equal parts entertaining and moving. I think many readers will find the dares (and their results) very funny (even though the responsible adult in me cringes at some of these antics). I also think this might be a good book for young readers dealing with divorce. Both of the main characters are dealing with different–yet similar–divorce situations, and this book may let readers experiencing this trauma know that they’re not alone.
This book is also a good fit for any student who has ever been a part of his/her school news team or media/broadcasting club. (As a matter of fact, I may have found a Christmas gift for my own school news team. Shhh! Don’t tell!)
If you’d like more information on Double Dog Dare and other books by author Lisa Graff, visit http://www.lisagraff.com/index.html.