The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman Book Poster Image

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman



Misfit finds a place to belong through Scrabble superpower.
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What parents need to know

Educational value

Lots of wordplay, including a killer list of two-letter words, definitions of unusual words, and anagrams (did you know maraschino is an anagram of harmonica?). The rules of Scrabble are explained in easy-to-follow detail.

Positive messages

Duncan, April, and Nate learn that in order to be happy they must stay true to themselves, despite the social or familial conflicts that arise from their choices. Though each player in the Scrabble tournament has a competitive nature and wants to win, teamwork and playing fair are emphasized. 

Positive role models

Duncan learns that to be successful he must take risks, both emotional and physical. April and Lucy are smart girls and know it, and they are comfortable with their intelligence. Duncan stays true to an uncool friend even after he himself gains popularity at school. Nate learns to stick up for himself with his father.

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The Scrabble brand is featured predominantly.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Duncan unwillingly appears in an ad for cigarettes, but cigarettes are portrayed in a negative light.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book about Scrabble-playing preteens features bullying by both children and parents. Though all of the three main characters sincerely love Scrabble, each wants to play in the national Youth Scrabble tournament because of a desire to fit in or appease a parent or schoolmate. The struggle to be true to oneself despite the pressure of outside influences is a major theme.

What's the story?

Duncan Dorfman discovers he has a power: his fingers can read words just by touching written letters. When a competitive classmate notices Duncan has something special, he drafts Duncan for the school Scrabble team. Meanwhile, April Blunt wishes her sports-obsessed family would acknowledge the importance of Scrabble and wonders if she will ever again see a boy she met years ago. On the other side of the country, Nate Saviano’s father has pulled him out of school, presumably to home-school him, but in actuality to work with Nate on perfecting his Scrabble skills. The three stories intersect at the national Youth Scrabble tournament, where the children forge friendships that go beyond the game and ultimately help each navigate through life’s larger challenges.

Is it any good?


Although Duncan’s newbie Scrabble status gives Wolitzer a handy excuse to explain the game, the premise of Duncan’s magic fingers, the only fantastic element in the story, is a bit hard to swallow. However, Duncan is a likable kid, and readers will sympathize with him as he struggles with the choice of whether to use his newfound power. The supporting stories of April and Nate are equally engaging -- April’s longing to gain the acceptance of her sports-loving family and Nate’s attempt to live up to his father’s expectations will be understood to by many kids, even if they have never played Scrabble. The adults tend to blurt out long-hidden truths that hurry each story to its conclusion, but the tournament scenes are exciting, and the resolution is satisfying.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the choices Duncan was faced with when he discovered his power. Should he have followed his mother’s advice when he first discovered what he could do? What would you do if you were given Duncan’s power?

  • Nate's father puts a lot of pressure on him to win, while April’s parents virtually ignore her passion for Scrabble. Was the way these characters cope with their imperfect parents believable? How would you deal with a parent who is being unreasonable or unfair?

  • How does the boy April met briefly at the motel pool years ago affect her? Have you ever been deeply influenced by someone you barely know?

  • Duncan’s mother kept an important secret from him. How do you think the truth that Duncan discovers will change his life? Which will have a deeper effect on him, this truth or Scrabble?

Book details

Author:Meg Wolitzer
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dutton Children's Books
Publication date:September 20, 2011
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Kid, 10 years old March 8, 2012


This is a really good book. If you love scrabble or word games, this is the perfect book for you! The chapters switch around with who the point of view is but it is not confusing.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old May 18, 2016

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer is a great realistic fiction book. It describes the life of a middle school boy named Duncan Dorfman trying to win the Youth Scrabble Tournament (YST) in Yakamee FL. In the book, Duncan moves from Portland, Michigan to Drilling Falls, Pennsylvania. There, the other kids call him mean names such as "lunch meat," until he shows off his secret "power." After that, a kid named Carl Slater invites Duncan to go to the YST because of his power. At the YST, Duncan meets many new friends. He meets a girl name April and her partner Lucy, and a boy named Nate and his parter Maxi. The book starts out slow, but then builds up suspense. When you think the book has ended, nope there is more. The ending makes you wish there was a sequel. The theme of this story is, an ordinary looking person might not be so ordinary. When Duncan gets to his new school, everyone thinks he just a typical person. But when he shows off his "power," people look at him differently. Read to find out more about what happens to Duncan.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old May 19, 2016

The Fingertips Of Duncan Dorfman

The story “The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” a realistic fiction story,By:Meg Woitzer, Is a about a boy named Duncan Dorfman,and he had moved from Michigan to Pennsylivania .He went to a new school called Drilling Falls Middle School.Ever since Duncan was a little boy he had, had a special power.One day he showed one boy his powers then a whole group gatherd around . In the group there was a boy named Carl and he asked Duncan if he wanted to be his scrabble partner, for the scrabble tournament.Duncan wasn't sure if he wanted to join but be was convinced, he said "yes". My favorite part of “The Fingertips Of Duncan Dorfman” is the ending,it was surprising, because that was when Duncan finds out who his dad was. I think the message the author is trying to tell us is that,don't be bossed around by people. I think this this theme fits, because Duncan’s scrabble partner was pushing him to cheat.
What other families should know
Great messages


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