King_Dork_coverBibliographic Information
Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
ISBN: 0-385-73291-0
Publisher: Delacorte Press, an Imprint of Random House
Copyright: 2006

Book Details
Jacket Design: Angela Carlino
Jacket Art & Illustrator: Daniel Chang
Formats: Hardcopy
ebook 3M Cloud Library
Audiobook CD
Page Count: 344 pages
Awards: 2006 Listen Up Award for Audiobook read by Lincoln Hoppe

Plot Summary
Tom Henderson is a high school sophomore focused on adolescent self-preservation at his new school. He is a oddball nerdy type — geeky and not at all good at sports – someone who is likely to be the brunt of high school cliques and pranks. Tom brings us along on his life at school, life as part of a rock band, life with his drug-using friend Sam Hellerman, life at Hillmont High School under the tutelage of some less than exemplary teachers, life with a stepfather.

“The Accident” is how Tom’s mom describes his father’s death, while working as a narcotics detective. But it is clear to Tom there is a lot more to this story than just a random car accident. Tom discovers a copy of Catcher in the Rye in which there are mysterious notes written by his father. Tied in with his desire to gain the attention of girls, the story brings us along as Tom, through his own self-evolution, sorts through the various mysteries and clues associated with his father’s death written into his father’s Catcher in the Rye book. Was his father’s death murder or suicide? What does it all mean?

Critical Evaluation
A coming of age story written in first person, Tom Henderson as protagonist narrates the book, providing an intimacy into his thinking and emotions as he weaves his way through adolescence and the new school he is attending as a high school sophomore. We see Tom Henderson’s perspective of the truth through his often funny, self-deprecating, cynical, yet honest observations of life in high school as a smart but self-defined oddball adolescent boy.

The plot weaves in a mystery as its climactic story line. This mystery plot-line may show some elements of a novice writer: some a little unbelievable, some not neatly resolved, some larger than life, and overall perhaps not properly climatic to meet standard plot models. Yet the voice and narration of Tom Henderson seem so genuine, so believable it makes any plot weaknesses far less deleterious to the book.
The book has received occasional consumer reviews about being misogynistic. But the book may be more representative of the self-interested thinking of a 15-year old boy experiencing his own sexual awaking.

Reader’s Annotation
So you’ve been required to read Catcher in the Rye. Here’s a book that lets you have some fun with your literary experience while living in the shoes of a high school sophomore with rock and roll dreams, who is feeling his geeky way through school and the mysteries of life.

Information about the Author
Frank Portman (aka Dr. Frank) is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist for a San Francisco East Bay punk band, Mr. T. Experience (MTX). Started in 1985 with first album released in 1986, its latest album was released in 2004.

Steven Malk, literary agent and lifetime fan of the band, approached Portman about writing a book. When MTX was in New York City, Malk invited several YA editors to the MTX concert. One editor, Krista Marino, bit on the idea that a song writer could write a book. She proposed he write the book like he would a song. The book sold to Krista and Delacorte based on a 30-page “demo” he created using her idea. “I chose the coolest song title I had. All of my songs have these characters, and this particular guy was in a lot of my songs. I free-associated after that and didn’t really know where it was going.”
King Dork was followed by Andromeda Klein. King Dork Approximately releases fall 2014.


Curriculum Ties
Catcher in the Rye comparison

Booktalking ideas
Catcher in the Rye – tie in.
Rock bands.
How to setup a mystery.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Interest Level: Grades 9-12 and older
Reading Level: Grade level equivalent: 7.8, Lexile Measure: 1060
May have most appeal to male readers.

Challenge Issues
Sex, Masturbation, and Lanugage

Booktalk on YouTube:
Frank Portman at Moe’s Books Berkeley (1):
Frank Portman at Moe’s Books Berkeley (2):
Frank Portman at Moe’s Books Berkeley (3):
Frank Portman at Moe’s Books Berkeley (4):
Frank Portman at Moe’s Books Berkeley (5):


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