Synopsis Sheet #2 for Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996.


In the book Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey , by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Tish Bonner has to write in a journal for her English class. At first she thought the assignment was a drag, but eventually it was the only friend she could turn to. Tish puts the heading "Don’t you dare read" or "Don’t Read" on the top of her journals and her teacher agreed to only check to see if she was writing without reading the journals.

Tish’s father was never around. He leaves for months, sometimes years before he return to only fight with her mother and spend her mothers money and then leave again. Tish would rather her father leave for good. Tish’s mother is a basket case and goes into a depression every time Tish’s father leaves town. Due to Tish’s mother’s lack of sanity she neglects both Tish and Tish’s younger brother Matt. Tish does her best to take care of her brother Matt by working at a Burger Boy restaurant.

Tish’s Mother eventually leaves both Tish and Matt to go find their father in California. Leaving the kids with nothing, no money or food. Tish is afraid of being separated from her brother, so she doesn’t tell any adults about her mother leaving them and tries to take on all the responsibilities herself. When Tish gets fired from the Burger Boy and is unable to find another job she realizes she is unable to take care of Matt and herself so then she turns to her English teacher. She told her teacher to read all the entries she had previously written the heading "Don’t read" on, which told about her situation at home. With the teacher’s help Tish and Matt were reunited with their mother and grandparents they had never met before who took them in and cared for them.

Secondary Material:

1. Sparks, M. It Happened to Nancy

2. Anonymous Go Ask Alice

3. Conan. What Jamie Saw

Appropriate Age Group: 8 years old and up.

Themes: Abandonment, sexual harassment, neglect, peer pressure, coping with death, family problems and depression.

Literary Language: Because this book is written in the form of a journal, the language is informal. There are symbols and images throughout the book.

Discussion Questions.: 1. Tish’s crocheting is a symbol within the book. What does it mean? Why is Tish’s crocheting so symbolic in the book? 2. What is the importance of the journal for Tish? Why is it so important for her to test Mrs. Dunphrey before writing anything personal? 3. Tish’s grandmother was a big influence in her life. She learned all her morals and values from her grandmother. How has that helped her survive her parents fighting and abandonment?

Work by Lisa Eagan and Erica Stetson in English 112B.