Donavan's Double Trouble
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Donavan's Double Trouble

by Monalisa DeGross, Amy Bates

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Donavan thought that fourth grade would be his best year ever. Instead, it's turning out to be nothing but trouble:

1. He's failing math class.

2. If his grades don't improve, his whiz-kid younger sister will have to tutor him!

3. When his beloved Uncle Vic returns from overseas combat as a paraplegic, everyone else is happy that he's safe at


Donavan thought that fourth grade would be his best year ever. Instead, it's turning out to be nothing but trouble:

1. He's failing math class.

2. If his grades don't improve, his whiz-kid younger sister will have to tutor him!

3. When his beloved Uncle Vic returns from overseas combat as a paraplegic, everyone else is happy that he's safe at home. But all Donavan feels is uncomfortable and sad.

4. Grandma insists on inviting Uncle Vic to the biggest family event of the school year, and she's not taking no for an answer! But what will the other kids think when they see Uncle Vic in a wheelchair?

From the author of Donavan's Word Jar comes an inspiring story that explores what it means to be a hero.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
Donavan has plenty of trouble. He is failing math; no matter how much he studies, Donovan just bombs out. It is great that his favorite uncle has come home safe from the war, but Uncle Vic has lost both legs and is now in a wheelchair. Can Donovan reconnect to this man who was once a firefighter and a fantastic basketball player? There is also Grandma's note about Uncle Vic that Donavan did not give to Ms. Cassel, the principal, and the note from his math teacher that he did not give to his mom and dad. Fourth grade is not turning out to be a great year. Donovan's determination to overcome his "math block" (as his friends call it) is admirable; he is willing to try everyone's suggestions (even those of his super smart younger sister), and he never gives up. Over time, Donovan's confused feelings about his uncle are resolved, and he is thrilled that Uncle Vic is not only displaying his wood carvings at a back-to-school night but is showing off his incredible talent as basketball player with the Flying Wheels, one of the best wheelchair basketball teams in the state. This is a good addition to any library's African-American collection and an excellent choice for kids who are coping with feelings of anger, embarrassment, and sadness about a disabled relative. Black and white drawings illustrate the text. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6- Donavan, introduced in Donavan's Word Jar (HarperCollins, 1994), ponders problems and develops workable solutions with the help of supportive friends and family. Now in fourth grade, he and friends Pooh and Eric are eagerly anticipating Heritage Month. The boys vie to become "greeters," but the administration insists on fifth graders for that coveted role. Donavan attacks his "math block" with help from his dad, his younger sister, and his uncle. The other main story line revolves around Uncle Vic, who recently lost his legs in a war. Donavan expresses painfully human feelings about his relative, including being uncomfortable around him. He neglects to communicate messages back and forth from the office to his family about getting his uncle involved in Heritage Month, and eventually gets caught and chastised. The conclusion finds the math strategies working and Uncle Vic finding his way in his new life. Though the story is slightly didactic, students will feel the love of the boy's African-American family and empathize with his academic struggles. Bates's pencil sketches reflect the emotion and warmth of this story.-Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Kirkus Reviews
African-American fourth grader Donavan still keeps the word jar he started in third grade, so big words are easy. His problem is math; his friends Pooh and Eric decide Donavan has a math block. This is compounded by the return of his favorite uncle Vic who lost both legs below the knee in the war. Donavan doesn't know how to relate to this new Uncle Vic, who was both a firefighter and a basketball star. Donavan's family wants Uncle Vic to display his carvings at the school's Heritage Month, but Donavan doesn't want kids asking his uncle stupid questions and staring. When Uncle Vic helps out with a math strategy and talks to Donavan about his disability, Donavan realizes tackling hard problems is a major part of life. DeGross's overlong and, at times, didactic follow-up to Donavan's Word Jar (1994) does feature a realistically conflicted and charming main character. Libraries seeking bibliotherapy for young relatives of disabled veterans might want to add this to their collections, as should those seeking chapter books starring African-American kids. (Fiction. 7-10)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.73(d)
550L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Donavan's Double Trouble

Chapter One

Heritage Month

"Donavan, who are you bringing to Heritage Month?" Pooh asked, his words muffled by the chunk of apple in his mouth.

The bell rang. Lunch was over for fourth and fifth graders. Donavan slung his backpack over his shoulder and picked up his lunch tray.

"No one," he answered, heading for the large green trash can near the exit. Pooh tossed his apple core on the tray and followed Donavan into the noisy hall.

"No one?" Pooh asked, his eyes wide.

"No one," Donavan repeated, walking faster. "I haven't been thinking about Heritage Month."

"Huh? After Valentine's Day nobody thinks about anything else," Pooh said, hurrying to keep up. "Hey, wait."

Donavan could tell by the sound of Pooh's voice that his friend did not believe him. "I got other things I'm thinking about," he said, and looked at Pooh as if he were a pesky fly.

"What things?"

"Math things: problems, quizzes, tests, homework."

"Oh!" Pooh knew that math was Donavan's worst subject. "Well, I got some good, big news. It's gonna cheer you up." Pooh waited a few seconds.

"Oh yeah?" Donavan kept walking.

"Pop Grandville is coming to Heritage Month!" Pooh paused. "He's gonna bring his new film." Pause. "It's about kids in a South African township."

Donavan stopped suddenly. Pooh bumped against his backpack, but he never stopped talking.

"They're our age and the film shows them hanging out and doing their thing."

Donavan really hadn't been thinking about Heritage Month. But he had to admit it, this film might begood. Better than good. Kids from Africa! "We'll get to hear their music. See the type of video games they play?"

Pooh joined in. "Sports, food, clothes. Man, we get to see how they hang out South African style."

"Yeah, but this is what I want to see. How they dance!" Donavan stomped his feet and clapped his hands. He danced around in a circle to his own beat.

Several kids stopped and watched. "What ya doing, D?" someone asked.

Before Donavan could explain, Pooh waved his hand in a warning. Donavan looked up and saw Miss Strickland, the hall monitor, staring in his direction.

"Nothing," he mumbled, and started walking again. The last thing he wanted was Miss Strickland's attention. She loved handing out detention slips.

Pooh followed. "Hey, let's keep this quiet," he whispered. "I want Pop to be a big surprise. I mean B-I-G big."

Donavan nodded. "Okay. I just got excited. Your grandpop is so cool. His pictures are in magazines big-time."

"Oh yeah. Do you still have the autographed copy of National Geographic?"

"Sure do. It was my first autograph." Donavan shook his head. "I can't believe I know someone who makes movies. How come he's not off somewhere filming something?" Pooh was always telling Donavan how he wished his grandfather were around more.

"He is, but when we visited him last summer I told him about Heritage Month. I told him that any family member could come, but that we wanted seniors."

"Yeah, everybody wants to hear about how things were in the old days," Donavan agreed.

"My mom and dad explained how Ms. Cassel started Heritage Month so that grandparents and parents could talk to us about family history," Pooh continued.

Donavan imitated Ms. Cassel's voice: "Youngsters, you must learrrrrrrrn about your cullllllture."

"Donnie, you should have heard Pop laugh when I told him about Mr. Reynolds and his bagpipes."

"Did you tell him how his kilt fell down?" Donavan gave Pooh a high five.

"Yup. And I also showed Pop how Mr. Ang acted out each of the animals in the Chinese horoscope."

"The tiger, brave and dangerous." Donavan struck a pose and raised his fist.

"The dog, loyal and courageous." Pooh bumped his fist against Donavan's.

"Pooh, you should have told him about Ms. Martinez's piñata and how we couldn't break it no matter how hard we tried," Donavan said.

"I forgot about that. But I did tell him that the whole school celebrates for a month," Pooh said. "I told him about the food, the costumes people wear, and a whole bunch of other stuff. He was really into it." Donavan could tell by Pooh's voice that his friend was excited. He was laughing and talking at the same time, getting louder and louder with each word.

"Your grandpop is like a celebrity. Everyone's gonna love him." Donavan held his hand up and made a victory sign. "Heritage Month is gonna be awesome this year."

Donavan looked up and saw Eric, his other best buddy, weaving his way through the crowd toward them. The three boys had been friends since kindergarten. Miz Utz, the school's office manager, always called them "triple trouble."

"What's up? Whatsup? Whatsup?" Eric asked, when he caught up with them.

"Hey, where were you at lunch?" Pooh asked.

"Principal's office."

"Huh?" said Donavan.

"No trouble." Eric laughed. "I had to give Ms. Cassel a note from my grandma." Eric looked left and right and then lowered his voice. "Grandma is coming to Heritage Month. She's going to teach batik to the fourth and fifth grades."

Donavan nudged Pooh. They knew that Eric liked everything he did to be mysterious.

"Nice," Pooh said.

"What's batik? Is she weaving something?" Donavan pictured the wooden loom and spinning wheel he'd seen in Eric's grandma's workroom.

"No, batik is a different kind of thing," Eric explained. "She'll use hot wax and dye." The boys listened while Eric explained his grandmother's work in detail, talking as if he were the expert.

"Pop Grandville is coming," Pooh interrupted Eric.

"And bringing a movie about kids in South Africa," Donavan added.

"You're lucky," Eric said wistfully.

Donavan knew Eric was wishing he had someone as cool as Pop Grandville to bring. He did too. Donavan thought for a moment and could think of no one. Eric cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Earth to Donnie! Earth to Donnie! What you thinking about so hard, homeboy? You got a secret?"

Donavan's Double Trouble. Copyright © by Monalisa DeGross. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>

Meet the Author

Monalisa DeGross wrote Donavan's Word Jar and Granddaddy's Street Songs. She works at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore as Project Manager of the Family Reading Circle, where she meets and observes children of all ages. Ms. DeGross lives in Baltimore, Maryland, near her children, Donavan and Nikki, and her grandchildren, Shaundrea, Annalisa, and August. In addition to her work as an author, she is also a locally celebrated playwright.

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