Double Dog Dare is a middle grade novel filled to the brim with humor and heart-- I had a great time reading it.
In this book, fourth graders Francine and Kansas find themselves competing for the position of news anchor in their school's media club, and the winner will be decided by a competition of dares. The two can't stand each other at first, but it turns out they have something in common: their parents' divorces.
Lisa Graff strikes a neat balance between the hilarity of the dares and the tough stuff kids have to deal with, and young readers will really relate to this book. When I ask elementary school aged readers what kind of book they want, the most common response is: "something like real life and kinda funny." Double Dog Dare definitely fits the bill! It's a solid story that will appeal to both boys and girls, and I can't wait to recommend at my library.
As part of her blog tour, Lisa was kind enough to answer a few questions for me!
Reading Everywhere: Your writing authentically captures the feel of being a kid-- you really hone in on the things kids worry about and laugh about. How do you get in touch with your inner kid when you’re writing?
Lisa Graff: Thanks so much! That's something I try really hard to accomplish with all of my books. There are a lot of ways to get into that "kid zone" - I read a ton of children's books, for one thing, and visit elementary schools fairly often to talk about writing, so that helps. But most of it is just a matter of remembering. I’m pretty lucky in that I kept a diary for most of my growing-up years, so now it's easy to go back and see what a hilarious weirdo I was as a child. Case in point: I would like to share two pages from my actual fourth-grade diary.
(In case you have trouble reading my stellar nine-year-old handwriting, I will decipher for you:)
11/2/90 This year I'm in forth grade. I havent writen in a year, so I'm sort of out of date. It is still the 1990's but alot has changed. I havent written in so long because I lost my diary. This year I don't relly have a boy friend and I'm not relly poplaur, but I'm Ashley's best friend. And Ashley's relley poplaur this year, so I'll be more poplaur than Ashley soon. [Please note that this is a PHENOMENAL plan to take over the world. Please also note that it did not work in the slightest.] I relly like my theacher but, he gives me alot of homework, which I hate. His name is Mr. Oliver, [written before I got in trouble for passing notes in class later that year:] he's relley cute. [Text as altered after said note-passing incident:] no way!!
Reading Everywhere: I LOVE IT. I think my elementary school diaries were very similar. You're no stranger to writing for kids-- in fact, Double Dog Dare is your fifth novel for young readers. What do you like best about writing for a middle grade audience?
Lisa Graff: I really enjoy the themes of middle-grade novels-- family and friends and figuring out your place in the world. Something as slight as a snub from a friend can be so life-or-death at that age, and I love that. Because those things are extremely important, and we tend to forget that as we get older.
I also enjoy that my audience is very honest, and they know what they like and what they don’t. If they think my book is boring, they will just stop reading it. And then they will probably write me a letter to tell me how boring it is. I like being held to such a high standard.
Reading Everywhere: That's so true-- kids will always tell you what they think! You have a very memorable cast of young characters in Double Dog Dare. I empathized most with Francine and her determination to get the long-coveted role of news anchor in the fourth-grade media club. Which character in this book is most like you, and why?
Lisa Graff: I think I'm probably most like Francine, in that she has a lot of trouble dealing with things that don't end up the way she thinks they’re supposed to, like her plan for becoming news anchor, or her parents' marriage. That kind of thing always throws me off my game, too, and I sometimes have a lot of trouble recovering. But I think I'm also a little like Kansas, in that I have a tendency to take care of others before myself. (I wish I was also as good at basketball as he is!)
Reading Everywhere: They're both great characters! This book contains some really unique character names-- you don't meet a lot of little Kansas and Francines running around! How did you come up with the names in this book?
Lisa Graff: Sometimes characters just pop into my head with names already attached, and that was the case with these two. I have no idea where the name Kansas came from. Once I came up with his first name, I gave him the last name Bloom, which I thought was completely random, but later I wondered if I was subliminally channeling actor Orlando Bloom (another place name!).
Reading Everywhere: Well, it's not hard to see why Orlando Bloom might be on your mind! I mean...
So, you're originally from Southern California, but are now living on the East Coast. As a Southern California girl myself, I have to ask-- what do you miss most about SoCal?
Lisa Graff: Most people expect me to say that I miss the weather, but I actually grew up in a weird little pocket of Southern California (the San Bernardino mountains, to be precise) where it snows fairly frequently. So, eschewing the obvious answer (my family), I am going to have to say that I desperately miss the Mexican food. New Yorkers think they know what Mexican food is, but they do not. Some days I would murder someone for a really decent taco.
Reading Everywhere: Oh yes, Mexican food is part of the essential Southern California experience. I promise I will eat some authentic tacos in your honor! Lisa, thank you so much for this fabulous interview.
Readers, now that you've learned more about Lisa and her latest book, I know you must be eager to get a copy. I have good news for you! Philomel is giving away one copy of Double Dog Dare to one reader of this blog. All you need to do to enter is to email Lisa at graff [dot] lisa [at] yahoo [dot] com with the subject line READING EVERYWHERE. The winner will be chosen at random on May 1st. Good luck!
And if you're looking for another way to win, Lisa has just the thing for you! Together with Penguin Books, she is sponsoring a contest to see who can build the best Rube Goldberg Machine. Check out Lisa's video to learn more!
Many thanks to Lisa for inviting me to participate in her Double Dog Dare blog tour. I've had a blast! To catch up with the other tour stops and learn more about Lisa, visit the following:
Tuesday, April 10th: Mundie Kids
Thursday, April 12th: Smack Dab in the Middle
Sunday, April 15th: Pragmatic Mom
Monday, April 16th: Novel Novice
Wednesday, April 18th: From the Mixed-Up Files...
Thursday, April 19th: Greetings From Nowhere
And be sure to look for Double Dog Dare in bookstores everywhere!