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The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

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Overview

Friendship, family, and high-stakes Scrabble come together in this compelling novel from a bestselling author

Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano don't seem to have much in common. Duncan is trying to manage his newfound ability to "read" with his fingers. April is striving to be accepted by her family of jocks. And Nate is struggling to meet his father's high expectations. But when a Scrabble Tournament brings them together, their stories intertwine. Driven by ...

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Overview

Friendship, family, and high-stakes Scrabble come together in this compelling novel from a bestselling author

Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano don't seem to have much in common. Duncan is trying to manage his newfound ability to "read" with his fingers. April is striving to be accepted by her family of jocks. And Nate is struggling to meet his father's high expectations. But when a Scrabble Tournament brings them together, their stories intertwine. Driven by competition, drama, and just a touch of magic, the story will have readers flying through the pages, anxious to discover who will be the real winners . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The lives, families, and story lines of three 12-year-olds intersect at the annual Youth Scrabble Tournament in adult author Wolitzer's (The Uncoupling) entertaining middle-grade debut. Possessing a supernatural power that gives him an unfair advantage in Scrabble, the title character wrestles with his conscience and a desire for increased social status offered by his conniving partner. Meanwhile, Nate's obsessed father homeschools him in Scrabble only, hoping his son will win the tournament he lost in his youth, and April's sports-fixated family cannot comprehend word games. Themes of competition, passion bordering on mania, and teamwork weave through the narrative, as the protagonists face the consequences of parental choices and flaws—which provide plentiful humorous moments—and contend with ethical struggles of their own. The tournament proves a great equalizer as families wealthy and poor, blended and nuclear, enthusiastic and indifferent support their children's ambitions, and quirky players meet kindred souls from many different corners of the country. Readers don't have to be Scrabble enthusiasts to enjoy this novel, though a passion for it may well develop by the end. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Margaret Orto
Three quirky kids—Duncan, April and Nate—hailing from different parts of the country, travel to Florida, along with their Scrabble partners, to compete in the Youth Scrabble Tournament. As they befriend each other while competing, their back stories come to light, and it turns out that each of these unique pre-teens has a high-stakes motivation to win the championship. Wolitzer's ability to weave the game of Scrabble with the game of contemporary life is impressive. She also makes the game of Scrabble accessible and interesting; readers who don't know the game will learn to play and lovers of the game will pick up some great tips. The mystery of which team will win first place and $10,000 will keep readers turning pages. As they read, they will also contemplate such modern day concerns as parental pressure, blended families, money issues of a single-parent family, being an outsider in a sports-obsessed family, and bullying and peer pressure. The magical element, Duncan and his special fingers that can "read" tiles without seeing them, seems out of place in such an otherwise realistic story, even though it provides him with the "real" dilemma of whether to use his power or not. Anyone who picks up this book will enjoy the romp through this rarefied world that Wolitzer has created. The challenge, of course, will be to get a child to pick up a book about the fairly obscure world of Scrabble playing and competition in the first place. Reviewer: Margaret Orto
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Three kids meet at a youth Scrabble tournament and help one another work through various issues. Nate has an overly competitive father, while April wants to get noticed by her sports-obsessed family. Duncan's situation is more complicated: he has the power to see things with his fingers, a potential secret weapon in Scrabble games. This fantastic element fits awkwardly into an otherwise realistic novel, and the fact that Duncan barely uses his talent for anything but Scrabble seems odd. The boy's eventual principled actions are offset by a dishonest ruse he uses, behind his mother's back, to get into the tournament. The narrative switches smoothly to capture the points of view and experiences of the three protagonists, although personalities and feelings are frequently spelled out rather than shown through action or dialogue. An anticlimactic attempt by a former player to sabotage the tournament fails to add much drama. Though Duncan is the only character with much depth, the other kids are likable and appealing, and the Scrabble background is neatly rendered in a way that even nonplaying kids can enjoy. The inclusion of tricky game strategies and insider terms like "vowel dumps" and "coffeehousing" bring the tournament scene to life, and the players all have different, believable reasons for their connection to the game. Consider for fans of "puzzle novels" Eric Berlin's "Winston Breen" books (Putnam) and Jody Feldman's The Gollywhopper Games (Greenwillow, 2008).—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Kirkus Reviews

Wolitzer turns to writing for young readers with an ever-so-slightlymagical tale of friendship and what it takes to be a winner.

Just before starting in a new school, 12-year-old Duncan Dorfmandiscovers he can read through the fingertips of his left hand. His single mother makes him promise not to tell anyone. When he just can't take being a nobody any longer, though, he shows his table mate at lunch and draws the attention of Carl Slater, who is determined to win the national Youth Scrabble Tournament by any means necessary. In Portland, Ore., April Blunt and her Scrabble partner practice regularly and search for a boy April met and lost touch with. In New York, Nate Saviano is struggling under the yolk of homeschooling (which is just his father's way of making him study 24/7 to win the tournament; Mr. Saviano lost when he was 12). The teams bond over Scrabble boards, helping each other win in ways that surprise even them. The novel is shot through with Scrabble words and rules in a way that is reminiscent of Louis Sachar's The Cardturner (2010). Readers will identify with and root for the characters as their tales intertwine to a satisfying if slightly too cheery close.

Word wizards aren't the only ones who will enjoy this readable rumination on ethics, competition and identity. (Fiction. 9-14)

Stefan Fatsis
The tiles, and the behavior of the children and the adults, all fall into place, a bit more conveniently than they do in Scrabble or in life…But the lessons learned are good ones, and it's hard to quibble with a story that brings together a tween in a mustard shirt and one with magenta hair to play a board game that promotes mental dexterity and linguistic ballet. Any kid who thinks it's cool that MARASCHINO is an anagram of HARMONICAS is cool with me. No wizardry required.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525423041
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/20/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,411,737
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s novels include The Wife, The Position, and the New York Times bestsellers The Ten-Year Nap and The Interestings. She lives in New York City.

Meg Wolitzer is the author of eight previous novels, including The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife. Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York City.

Biography

Meg Wolitzer grew up around books. Her mother, Hilma Wolitzer, published two novels while Meg was still in school, and weekly trips to the library were a ritual the entire family looked forward to. Not surprisingly, Meg served as editor for her junior high and high school literary magazines. She graduated from Brown University in 1981. One year later, she published her debut novel, Sleepwalking, the story of three college girls bonded by an unhealthy fascination with suicidal women poets. It marked the beginning of a successful writing career that shows no sign of slacking.

Over the years, Wolitzer has proven herself a deft chronicler of intense, unconventional relationships, especially among women. She has explored with wit and sensitivity the dynamics of fractured families (This Is Your Life, The Position); the devastating effects of death (Surrender, Dorothy), the challenges of friendship (Friends for Life), and the prospective minefield of gender, identity, and dashed expectations (Hidden Pictures, The Wife, The Ten-Year Nap).

In addition to her bestselling novels, Wolitzer has written a number of screenplays. Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize, and she has also taught writing at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and at Skidmore College.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Wolitzer shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself:

"First of all, I am obsessed with playing Scrabble. It relaxes me between fits of writing, and I play online, in a bizarro world of anonymous, competitive players. It's my version of smoking or drinking -- a guilty pleasure. The thing is, I love words, anagrams, wordplay, cryptic crossword puzzles, and anything to do with the language."

"I also love children's books, and feel a great deal of nostalgia for some of them from my own childhood (Harriet the Spy and The Phantom Tollbooth among others) as well as from my children's current lives. I have an idea for a kids' book that I might do someday, though right now my writing schedule is full up."

"Humor is very important to me in life and work. I take pleasure from laughing at movies, and crying at books, and sometimes vice versa. I also have recently learned that I like performing. I think that writers shouldn't get up at a reading and give a dull, chant-like reading from their book. They should perform; they should do what they need to do to keep readers really listening. I've lately had the opportunity to do some performing on public radio, as well as singing with a singer I admire, Suzzy Roche, formerly of the Roches, a great group that started in 1979. Being onstage provides a dose of gratification that most writers never get to experience."

"But mostly, writing a powerful novel -- whether funny or serious, or of course both -- is my primary goal. When I hear that readers have been affected by something I've written, it's a relief. I finally have come to no longer fear that I'm going to have to go to law school someday...."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 28, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Brown University, 1981
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    MUST READ

    I read this book in one day! I couldn't put it down! It is a very clever, gripping story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    Ok book

    If you like action this isnt the best book,allthough i liked the cool twist and the suppence though
    Overall ok book

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Best Book Ever!

    My teacher has been reading this book at school. My favorite part is when Lucy hypnotizes Wendell Bruno. If you decide to read this book you won't be able to put it down. Have fun with reading!


    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    The fingertip times

    This a great book and I would recomend it to anybody.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    Read this before buying

    Slightly dull ending. Completely drop off ideas. Ok for youger readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Great

    This book is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013

    Good book should make a sequel

    I love it the end ing was nice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    AnnaSophialynn

    I'm reading it right niw and so far its great!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    So funny

    Not to far into it but i am loving this super suspenseful book aboit a kid with a power..... worth your moola

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    AWESOME

    Great book! I learned alot about scrabble.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Pretty good book

    It was agood book:)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2012

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    Posted February 19, 2013

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    Posted May 7, 2013

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    Posted November 1, 2012

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    Posted May 30, 2014

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