Sharon Draper, Author
Atheneum Books, YA Fiction, 2003
Suitable for: Grades 5 to 9
Themes: Dyslexia, Bullies, Friendship, Secrets, Sportsmanship
Synopsis: Three eighth-grade friends prepare for the International Double Dutch Championship jump rope competition to be held in their hometown, Cincinnati. Delia, who is the main character, loves Double Dutch. She is the fastest and best jumper on her team, and has a shot at the championship. But, Delia, has a secret she has kept from everyone, including her mother. She can’t read. In order to compete, she must pass the state proficiency tests. This could jeopardize her chance to participate in the competition. Even her best friend and team member, Yolanda, “Yo Yo” doesn’t know for a while. Yo Yo, specializes in telling very tall tales, and no one can believes a word she says — she’s the comic relief in the story.
Delia isn’t the only person with a secret. Randy, whose father is a truck driver, has been missing for weeks. Randy is close to his Dad and can’t understand why he can’t reach him. Randy assists the Double Dutch coach, Bomani, and helps with practices — a great distraction for Randy. He also has a crush on Delia. Randy is running out of money to pay the rent and electricity. He doesn’t have enough to buy food. He’s afraid to tell anyone because he’s doesn’t want to be put into a foster home. He always makes excuses to Delia about his dad, but deep inside he’s scared and worried.
One thing is for sure, all three friends share a fear of the new Tolliver Twins, the school bullies. Especially Yo Yo, who is shoved into a locker when the Tolliver’s pass her in the hall. They dress in black, wear skull caps, only interact with each other and angrily storm the halls. They seem to follow Yo Yo around at Double Dutch meets and practices. Out of fear, she spreads a rumor that the Tolliver twins are going to blow up the school. Even the teacher’s are intimidated when the twin’s mother goes onto a television program and asks for help for her sons. This causes a stir at the middle school. Will there be violence?
What I like about this book: This is a good novel for 6th graders, and not too young for eighth graders. There are no inappropriate scenes and the language is clean. Author Sharon Draper has skillfully woven together the lives of three middle grade students and all the angst that accompanies their drama-filled teenage years. She has created a diverse group of characters, a great theme about friendships, and a strong plot with a few twists and turns. I enjoyed reading Double Dutch, because I used to jump it as a girl. But not at the competitive level of the characters in the book. I was amazed at what athletic skill, talent and focus is required of its jumpers. This book was a great read and will certainly appeal to middle grade girls.
Sharon Draper has also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Fears of a Tiger. She won the Coretta Scott King Literary Award for her novels Copper Sun, and Forged by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho. For more information about all the books she’s published, resources, activities, interviews and information on school visits, click here to visit Draper’s website. I reviewed Draper’s latest novel, Out of My Mind, Jan. 23, 2012, and Copper Sun on Mar. 12, 2012.