Double Dog Dare. by Lisa Graff. April 12, 2012. Philomel. 304 pages. ISBN: 9780399255168
Double Dog Dare is the story of a dare war started between two members of Auden Elementary School’s media club. Both Kansas Bloom, the new kid in school, and Francine Halata want to be the anchor for the morning news. When their teacher says they can settle the matter in any way that doesn’t break school rules, they immediately decide to dare one another to do various tasks until one of them gives up. In alternating chapters, titled after the objects involved in their dares, readers come to understand both sides of the rivalry, and they get to know some of the issues Kansas and Francine deal with outside of school, especially when it comes to their divorced parents. Who will win? How far will they go? Will Kansas and Francine always be enemies or will their secret commonalities finally reveal themselves?
I think the subject matter of this school story is interesting, and many of the dares are silly and made me laugh, but I had a hard time believing a teacher would be so lax as to let kids work out a decision like this on their own, with no adult guidance. I’m sure many readers could suspend their disbelief on that point, but that detail was a bit of a hang-up for me as I tried to get into the story. What did work for me, though, was the slow growth of a friendship between Kansas and Francine. I like that they get carried away with the dares for a little while, but begin to recognize the good in each other and ultimately rise above their petty rivalry for the sake of the media club. I also think the design of the book is great. I love the initials in the corners of the pages that indicate the character whose point of view we are in, and the fact that these letters remind the reader of the tallies kept on the chalkboard, showing who has completed the most dares. It was also a great idea to name each chapter after an object relevant to the story. I enjoyed reading them in the table of contents and using them as a map to move through the story.
Double Dog Dare will appeal to kids who like realistic fiction, and are ready for longer books, but might not want a lot of the stereotypical tween content. It reminds me a lot of Andrew Clements’s books, especially No Talking, due to the school setting, the plot revolving around a rivalry, and the fact that it can appeal equally to both boys and girls. It’s a solid story, with memorable characters, and one that families can happily read together, or teachers can read aloud to their upper elementary classes.
I borrowed Double Dog Dare from my local public library.