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Intro, Summary & General Questions

Delia's not the only one with a secret. Her potential boyfriend, Randy, has one too- his dad has been missing for weeks, and Randy hasn't told anyone for fear he'll be put in a foster home. But he is running out of money, and getting scared.

The one thing that isn't a secret is that their classmates, the Tolliver twins, are out to cause trouble. With their skull caps, angry demeanors, and hints of violence emanating from even the way they stalk down the school halls, they seem to enjoy intimidating the other kids. But will they cross the line from intimidation to violence?

With consummate skill and an uncanny ability to capture how real kids think, act, and feel, Tears of a Tiger author Sharon Draper weaves these three stories tighter and tighter, creating a novel that tingles with suspense and emotion.

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Reviews & Awards

--Delia loves Double Dutch jump roping; she's good enough at it to participate in the world championships being held in her home city of Cincinnati. But Delia has an embarrassing secret that may jeopardize her place on the team: she can't read. She copes in school by relying on her memory, renting videos, doing projects that don't require writing, and behaving well enough not to be noticed.

Her friend Randy has a secret, too. His father has been gone for weeks. Has he deserted his son just like Randy's mother deserted them? When the fearsome Tolliver twins, Tabu and Titan, arrive in the eighth grade, the threat of violence puts everyone on edge. The three interwoven stories heat up like the weather.

Draper tackles tough problems and explores adolescent concerns. What the author does best is create vibrant, engaging characters with unique voices. While these eighth graders nay be as tough as their problems, they are also are much more complex: sensitive, funny, enthusiastic, and real. Draper adeptly paints a convincing portrayal of how young people think, act, feel and interact with one another.
School Library Journal, June 2002

--Delia is an intelligent creative, eighth-grade student with a secret. Her friend Randy also has a secret: he has not heard from his father, he's running out of money and food, and he's afraid to tell anyone. The details and play-by play of the Double Dutch practices and contests provide the core around which the rest of the story develops.

Several other issues are addressed along the way, and are dealt with nicely by the cast of supporting characters. Delia's friend tells fantastic, outlandish stories about herself and her life so earnestly that even her friends are sometimes unable to know when she is telling the truth. The Tolliver twins' threatening demeanor and attitude mask a fear of lass and separation that they manage to overcome heroically during a devastating tornado that hits their school. Even Delia and Tandy's more serious problems have happy, though not perfect, conclusions. Delia and her friends are delightful, and the reader is rooting for them all the way. A fast-paced, multi-layered story.
Kirkus, June 2002

-- Eighth-grader Delia may be a star on a Cincinnati Double Dutch team, but she can't read. Thanks to her friends, her excellent memory, and extra-credit projects, she's managed to conceal her secret. Her sweet, thoughtful classmate Randy also has a secret--his father has disappeared, and Randy's been on his own for weeks. Twin students, suspected of plotting against the school, pose another worry. The exciting jump-rope action is constant, and each storyline explores a different side of fear. Draper raises provocative questions about mass hysteria and prejudice, especially in the students' reactions to the angry twins. And she sharply articulates how anxiety seeps in and overpowers "like smoke." Teens will like the high-spirited, authentic dialogue, the honest look at tough issues, and the team workout scenes that show how sports can transform young lives.
Booklist, September 2002

  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People--Children's Book Council
  • One of the top ten sports books for young adults for 2003--ALA
  • Best of the Best for 2004
  • Sunshine State Young Reader's Award for 2006
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Study Guides

Discussion Topics
  1. Double Dutch begins with a discussion of the characters' fear of the Tolliver twins. Trace how the idea of fear and the result of fear is developed throughout the story.

  2. The twins use intimidation and fear to terrorize the school. Analyze the names Titan and Tabu. Why are their names intimidating? What other factors about the twins make them seem dangerous and deadly.

  3. Why is the television program on which the twins appear an effective way to increase their negative reputation? Discuss the effect of these kinds of talk shows.

  4. Yolanda is a humorous character because she tells tall tales and exaggerates. Basically, she is a liar. Discuss, by using other characters in the story, how lies and deception can have serious consequences. How can the character of Yolanda be justified if lying is a negative trait?

  5. Many of the characters are hiding secrets. Tell how each of the characters listed below have secrets that they are hiding from others and explain how those secrets caused problems.
    • Titan and Tabu
    • Delia
    • Randy
    • Yolanda
    • Delia's parents

  6. Double Dutch is more than just a story about jumping rope. Discuss how the title can have more than one interpretation. Find all examples of "double" ideas and events in the story.

  7. The tornado is a natural disaster that brings about a number of plot developments. Explain how the tornado can be interpreted as a "character" that affects the rest of the characters and events in the book.

  8. Families often have difficulties and young people must cope with the situations that arise. Discuss the relationship between the following and discuss the strengths of their families:
    • Delia and her mother
    • Delia and her father
    • Randy and his father
    • Bomani and his family

  9. A powerful friendship can often make a difference in the lives of young people. Discuss how Delia's friendship Yolanda and with Randy made a difference in her life. What might have happened if Yolanda and Randy had not been real friends to Delia?

  10. Delia's problem is that she cannot read, yet she is obviously very intelligent. Give examples of Delia's intelligence and show how she was able to escape detection for so long.

  11. Double Dutch is a popular team sport. Discuss how organized sports and athletic events are positive activities. Trace how the sport of Double Dutch was helpful in the lives of the following characters:
    • Delia
    • Randy
    • Misty
    • Yolanda

  12. Minor characters are often very important in the development of a story. Discuss how the following characters made a difference:
    • Mr. Clifford
    • Bomani
    • Miss Benson
    • Mrs. Parks

  13. What predictions can you make about the following?
    • Delia and the test
    • Delia and Double Dutch
    • Delia and Randy
    • Tabu and Titan at school
    • Yolanda and the twins
    • Randy and his father


    "Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the truth and a lie," Delia mused. "And it doesn't really matter who believes it."

    Write a comparison paper on the difference between truths and lies, on the difference between what is real and what is believed. Use examples from the book to support your statements.

    "The tension in the small gym sizzled like dangling electric lines--hot and fiery."

    "Soon nothing could be heard but the tapping of her shoes and the whirling of the ropes as they made a breeze in the corner of the gym."

    "It was the test. It was rumbling down the road like a runaway truck, and she was standing helplessly directly in its path."

    "He thought about real fear and how it was slipping like smoke under his door, into his space, and throughout his body."

    Write a descriptive paper using one of the four sentences above, or choose another sentence of your own, as a starter. Use vivid verbs and powerful adjectives and adverbs as you write. Use as many of the senses as you can. (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)

    "Clutching the flyer, he ran out suddenly, leaving Delia sitting alone on the bleachers, listening to the echoes of all the victories and defeats that gym had witnessed--including her own."

    Write a narrative paper from the point of view of the gym. Tell what kinds of games were played, the kind of people that sat and watched, the athletes that played, the food that was sold, etc. Take any aspect of " the life of a gym" and develop it.

    "Double Dutch requires an intricate display of skill, agility, and strength. It encourages creativity, teamwork and sportsmanship, and develops physical fitness and mental discipline."

    Write and expository (explanatory) paper on a sport. Tell how the game is played, give some of the rules, and explain why it is successful as an enjoyable physical activity.

    "We are instituting some new policies here at the school. It is happening all over the country, so don't think you're being picked on, and don't think you're special. First of all, this weekend a metal detector will be installed at the front door."

    Write a persuasive paper that argues the following point. "Metal detectors are useful and necessary and should be installed in all schools to insure safety." You may agree or disagree with the statement, but you may only argue one side of the issue.

    Read the novel Lord of the Flies. Write a paper that discusses the ideas of fear and violence, as the students did in Miss Benson's class. You may compare ideas from Double Dutch with ideas from Lord of the Flies.

    Write a poem about one of the following topics:
    • Secrets and Lies
    • Fear of the Unknown
    • Forever Friends
    • The Joy of the Jump
    • Storms and Destruction
    • The Dance of Divorce

  1. Investigate more about the sport of Double Dutch. Learn the rules and regulations and learn the steps required. Have a Double Dutch tournament at your school.

  2. Investigate tornadoes or hurricanes as storms of destruction. Find out how they are formed, what causes them, and what their effects are upon the people that are involved in such a storm.

  3. Investigate TV talk shows. How real are the people that appear on the shows, and how are they chosen? Why are such shows popular?

  4. Investigate reading problems such as dyslexia. What are the causes and cures? What academic difficulties are encountered? How can a student with reading problems be helped?

  5. Write a paper that investigates the effects of divorce on young people. You may discuss custody, adjustment, or financial situations. Show the results of the effects of divorce on school, personal, and social situations. You may show both positive and negative results.

Other Activities
  1. Create a TV show where Randy and his father are reunited.
  2. Pretend you are a TV reporter at the scene of the tornado.
  3. Pretend you are a TV reporter at the scene of the Double Dutch tournament.
  4. Create a skit similar to the one that the students produced for class.
  5. Create a skit that acts out the reunion of the characters in ten years.