Double Dog Dare

290p. CIP. Philomel. Apr. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25516-8. LC 2011005721.
Gr 3–5—Kansas, a new boy, and Francine, a veteran of the fourth-grade Media Club, go head-to-head in a dare war competing for the role of news anchor. Kansas has never turned down a dare in his life, and Francine will do anything for the job she has wanted "forever." Readers will be hooked by the first chapter: Who will be the first to slip up? How far will they go to win? Is there any dare they won't do? Chapters alternate between the protagonists' points of view; initials at the top of the page indicate whose turn it is. Amid the competition, readers get an inside look at what it is like to be a kid experiencing divorce: how it feels when mom changes her last name back to her maiden name, splitting time between two homes, and finding the right way to share these changes with friends. The seriousness of the topic is nicely balanced with humor throughout; kids will laugh at the dares, such as kissing a lizard, telling the playground monitor that you need to smell his armpit for a science project, and eating 87 packets of ketchup in the school cafeteria. Readers who have experienced divorce in their own lives will easily connect with the characters, and those who have not will readily empathize. All readers will be reminded that even when things don't turn out as expected, it's often for the best. A small sprinkling of emails, IMs, and notes passed in class help make the story realistic. All in all, an enjoyable, lighthearted read about a difficult topic.—Karinn Figdore, William Penn Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
Francine and Kansas (who's new to Auden Elementary School) are competing to be the next Media Club news anchor: whoever performs the most dares will win. They eventually realize they have something in common: their parents' upsetting divorces. Graff combines mild gross-out humor with real-life problems of fourth graders. The story has an enjoyable arc with a satisfying ending.

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