Dorko the Magnificent

Dorko the Magnificent

4.8 6
by Andrea Beaty

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  Robbie Darko is a magician. An old-school, pull-a-rabbit-out-of-your-hat-style magician. Robbie loves magic and he’s good at it—sort of. Despite his best efforts, passion, and practice, something always goes wrong with his tricks, landing Robbie in trouble. Enter crotchety Grandma Melvyn, who calls everyone “Trixie” and complains


  Robbie Darko is a magician. An old-school, pull-a-rabbit-out-of-your-hat-style magician. Robbie loves magic and he’s good at it—sort of. Despite his best efforts, passion, and practice, something always goes wrong with his tricks, landing Robbie in trouble. Enter crotchety Grandma Melvyn, who calls everyone “Trixie” and complains about everything. When Grandma Melvyn moves in and takes over his room, Robbie discovers that she was once an internationally renowned magician and learns about the heartache that turned her into a bitter woman. Against all odds, Robbie and Grandma Melvyn form an uneasy alliance to show the world—or at least the kids of Hobson Elementary School—that he is a true magician. Shortly after a successful talent show, Grandma Melvyn performs a final disappearing act, and Robbie learns a little about the true meaning of magic.
Written with pitch-perfect middle-grade humor and unforgettable characters, this gem of a novel will stay with readers long after Dorko the Magnificent has taken his final bow.

Praise for Dorko the Magnificent
"A young would-be magician gets lessons in both stagecraft and life from a crusty elder... the supporting characters steal the show."
Kirkus Reviews

"Short chapters keep the story moving. Robbie has impressive determination, but it is Grandma Melvyn who is the star in this moving story."

"Satisfying and enjoyable, Dorko will engage reluctant and voracious readers alike."
School Library Journal

" A thoroughly likable middle-grade novel, offering a blend of poignancy and giggle-worthy humor, this book is a solid back-to-school read."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Literature circles would work well with this title that deals with alienation, friendship, family, reconciliation, and death."
Library Media Connection

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fifth-grader Robbie Darko has been obsessed with becoming a magician for years, but the illusions he performs tend to end in disaster. Robbie is less than excited when his grandmother moves in with his family temporarily, but could Grandma Melvyn—with her bedazzled sweatshirts, steady stream of insults, and Wheel of Fortune obsession—actually be a master of misdirection herself? The testy intergenerational relationship between Robbie and his grandmother forms the heart of the story; the family’s financial troubles, Robbie’s father’s frequent absences, and Robbie’s friendships hover at the periphery. Humor and poignancy, triumph and failure are balanced throughout, though Beaty (Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies) sends the story veering to tragedy in the final pages in a way that is likely to surprise (and possibly upset) readers. Nonetheless, while Robbie explains early on that he won’t be divulging any magicians’ secrets (“If you’re reading this book to find out how magic tricks work... you’re reading the wrong story”), readers will come away learning at least one key to making magic: hard work. Ages 8–12. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Melasi
Eleven year old Robbie Darko loves being a magician and is called "Dorko the Magnificent!" He is in fifth grade and has to come up with a great new act for the talent show at school. Robbie has already tried the old table cloth trick, but it did not go so well. His life at home is pretty hectic. His younger brother, Harry, who Robbie calls, Ape Boy (because he climbs on everything) chews gum all the time, and leaves the wrappers everywhere. And now grumpy Grandma Melvin has come to stay with them until she has her knee surgery. She calls everyone "Trixie," complains about everything, and falls asleep in the middle of a sentence. With the talent show quickly approaching, Robbie definitely needs some help with the "abracadabra stuff." Grumpy Grandma Melvin offers to give Robbie magic lessons, and it turns out she is actually pretty good at it! Robbie learns a card trick, a vanishing act, and also learns compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness. The author did a great job creating memorable characters, and used plenty of funny narration which helps move the story along. Readers will enjoy the lighthearted way the author describes life in Robbie's house, and Grandma Melvin's antics with him and his friends. Reviewer: Beverly Melasi
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Fifth grade has been tough for Robbie Darko, an aspiring illusionist who can't perform even the simplest trick without accidentally setting things on fire. His dad constantly travels for work, his mom tries to help make ends meet with a demanding new job, his teachers are fed up with his havoc-wreaking magic tricks, and his little brother is a huge pain. To make matters worse, Robbie is asked to give up his bedroom to eccentric and unrelentingly cantankerous Grandma Melvyn (actually, his great-great-aunt). Robbie eventually learns that Grandma Melvyn was once a celebrated magician. With the help of his affable friend Cat, he slowly earns Grandma's approval and, ultimately, her trust and affection. She not only coaches Robbie in showmanship and sleight of hand, but she also guides him down the path to self-confidence and self-discipline. Robbie's maturation is ultimately tested when Grandma Melvyn makes a final trip to the hospital. Beaty develops well-rounded main and supporting characters with genuine flaws and emotions, skillfully building their relationships. Though the protagonist's flashback narration occasionally meanders, it has an authentic middle-grade voice that will have readers laughing out loud. The moments where Robbie takes responsibility for his mistakes and shows vulnerability will serve as positive examples for young audiences. Satisfying and enjoyable, Dorko will engage reluctant and voracious readers alike.—Elly Schook, Jamieson Elementary School, Chicago
Kirkus Reviews
A young would-be magician gets lessons in both stagecraft and life from a crusty elder. Fifth-grader Robbie Darko is horrified to learn that he'll be giving up his room to terrifying, old Grandma Melvyn while she waits for a knee operation. Discovering that she had been a renowned magician in her early days, though, he sees opportunity. He earns her respect and enlists her help with his act for the upcoming school talent show by gradually learning how to stand up to her harsh tongue and temper. What she teaches him are not new tricks but deeper principles, from "Your job is to make [audiences] believe impossible things" to the values of relentless preparation and of flexibility when things go wrong. These initially seem disappointingly abstract but stand him in good stead both for the show and for when Grandma Melvyn takes another, final trip to the hospital. The author creates a sympathetic cast, but Robbie's habit of refusing to describe his tricks while overexplaining everything else in his life may leave readers wanting to know less about him and more about Grandma Melvyn and his best friend Cat, a classmate with a real gift for connecting with people. Beaty slips in some important stuff here, but the supporting characters steal the show. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Amulet Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.24(w) x 5.68(h) x 0.80(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Beaty is the author of Secrets of the Cicada Summer, Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, When Giants Come to Play, and Iggy Peck, Architect. She lives outside Chicago with her family. Andrea often visits schools to share her love of writing with students. Learn more about her programs and her books at and

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Dorko the Magnificent 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this is the best book ever defintly worth the money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best book &I have read in a long time. it's funy , it's sad, and you never want to put it away so I would give the book a 5 gold stars:).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love books that have funny moments. This is definatly one of them. A lot of words would decribe this book: adventure funny touching weird, and, well, just plain AWSOME! I don't wat to give anything away. But its just an awsome book that everyone would enjoy, even Grandma Melvin!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Completely enjoyable, funny, and surprisingly touching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a breathtaking tale that will forever warm my heart
BooksAreMyLife1 More than 1 year ago
A Wonderfully written tale of magic and love.  Sometimes we find that things aren't always what they seem, especially in the world of a magician.  Robbie Darko already knows this since he has been practicing to be a magician most of his young life.  However, in this heartwarming story, he also finds that this can be true of people as well.  Robbie learns not only the tricks of magic, but about being accepting and understanding of others.  This is a wonderfully written book with a great story line that can teach us all a valuable lesson