Double Dutch: Book Summary & Characters

Instructor: Catherine Smith

Catherine has taught History, Literature, and Latin at the university level and holds a PhD in Education.

''Double Dutch'' follows the stories of eighth graders as they deal with their private struggles and secrets, including illiteracy and a missing father. They navigate these struggles against the backdrop of preparing for a Double Dutch tournament.

Delia's Big Secret

Delia, the main character in Double Dutch, is passionate about Double Dutch and is the most talented student on her school's team. She is dedicated to practicing and preparing for an upcoming tournament, but she worries about a secret she has been keeping: she cannot read. This secret might pose some problems for her love of Double Dutch, since she will have to leave the team if it is discovered that she can't read. So far, Delia has been getting through her classes by choosing to do oral presentations when possible, and watching the films of the books she is supposed to read. At the beginning of the novel, not even her best friend Yolanda knows her secret, but she soon figures it out.

Main Characters

Yolanda is the funniest character in the book and often provides a bit of humor in otherwise serious situations. Yolanda frequently points out the love interest between Delia and Randy, although they do not talk about it themselves. Yolanda is also known around the school for being a liar, so there is no concern that she will share the secrets of the love interest or of Delia's inability to read.

Randy's Secret

Randy's father has gone missing, and Randy does not want to tell his friends or teachers out of fear that he will be sent to foster care. After Randy's dad has been missing for awhile, Randy runs out of money. He takes some of his things to a pawn shop and manages to get some money from the owner, who gives him advice as to how much money to give the various bill collectors. This money keeps Randy going for awhile.

The Tolliver Twins

One on-going issue for everyone at the school (including the main characters) is having to deal with the Tolliver twins, Tabu and Titan. They have serious behavior problems, and bully various students, including Yolanda. At one point, their mother takes them onto a television show to ask for help, as she is out of ideas as to how to handle them. On the show, the twins hint at violence in the classroom, which increases everyone's fear of them. However, later in the book we learned that they have been through a traumatic ordeal that may have led to their poor behavior. We'll learn more about this later.

Twin Tornadoes Hit the School

In the middle of Double Dutch, a massive storm hits the school. Just before the storm hits, the students are doing their class presentations. Delia and her friends do a presentation that demonstrates that sometimes people are afraid of things that aren't real -- in their presentation, they show students panicking about an alien invasion, which turns out not to be aliens at all, but a small cat. This is significant because much of the novel has to do with the students fearing what will happen if their secrets are discovered, despite the fact that the consequences aren't so bad.

The Tollivers' Tragic Past

Everyone panics during the storm, and in the chaos, no one notices that the Tolliver twins are missing. Some students are suspicious as to why they ran out of the room, and their mother explains, 'Their father got killed in a terrible thunderstorm when they were very young... When I got home from work, I found the twins huddled together in the dark, their father lying dead in the mud in the backyard.' This story explains a great deal, such as why the Tolliver twins have behavioral problems and why they left during the storm. The twins eventually return, carrying Yolanda, who was injured in the storm. This demonstrates that they are not the monsters everyone thought they were.

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