Dorko the Magnficent
by Andrea Beaty, published 2013
“Cat laughed again. In case you hadn’t noticed, she laughs a lot. That’s one of the things I like about her. …And she doesn’t judge people all the time. Cat figures that if someone is always cranky like Grandma Melvyn, it’s just who they are. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person.”
Drum roll. Lights. Ta-Da! Applause, as Robbie himself would say in this immensely likeable, creative, and somewhat wacky children’s book. I love it. Everything is told through fifth-grader Robbie’s voice, as his attempts at being a magician get a super boost from his very unusual Grandma Melvyn. There’s plenty of good-natured fun, as well as painful fifth-grade embarrassments, throughout this inspired children’s book. Add to that a touch of pathos at the end, and this children’s book becomes memorable.
I can’t give away any of the magician’s secrets in the book, but I will say that the author has convincingly created an implausible yet totally wonderful scenario that unfolds. The author, through the boy’s voice, always engages the reader with little asides, so we as readers feel directly involved in every part of the story. The grandmother’s character is just that– she’s a real character, until we come to find out the truth of who she is.
This is a perfect fifth-grade book. The hero is a boy, and his best friend is a girl, so it’s great for reluctant boy readers, and girls will love it equally well. Be forewarned that this children’s book has its share of fifth-grade boy humor that makes most adults smile and groan.
As a grandmother myself, I love books which highlight the precious relationship between the old and the young. I’m so glad this children’s book makes the relationship count in a very deep way.