A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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