3.5 6
by Sue Stauffacher

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Franklin Delano Donuthead is a fifth grader with a lot of problems: For starters, his last name is Donuthead. He considers himself handicapped because one arm and leg are shorter than the other (by less than half an inch), his mother is trying to poison him with non-organic foods (like salami), he doesn’t have a father, and Sarah Kervick, the new girl,

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Franklin Delano Donuthead is a fifth grader with a lot of problems: For starters, his last name is Donuthead. He considers himself handicapped because one arm and leg are shorter than the other (by less than half an inch), his mother is trying to poison him with non-organic foods (like salami), he doesn’t have a father, and Sarah Kervick, the new girl, who’s mean and totally unhygienic, is attached to him, warts and all, like glue.

This is a hilarious and touching novel featuring a neurotic, scared boy and a tougher-than-nails girl who each help the other in more ways than they can imagine. Sue Stauffacher has crafted characters full of wit and sensitivity, with a little anti-bacterial soap thrown in for good measure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
0-440-41934-4. In a starred review, PW said, "This insightful novel offers a good-natured optimism as well as some hilarious asides from the obsessive fifth-grade hero." Ages 8-12. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The title of this book is the main character's last name (coming from his Russian great-great-great-great grandfather, Donotscked). His first and middle names are Franklin Delano. He is a 5th grader obsessed with safety and the presence or absence of germs. By the end of the book (or sooner), readers will identify with and grow to love poor Franklin, as he deals with life in a way only he can muster. His mother works for the cable company and he knows nothing of his father, as he was a sperm donor. The explanation of this situation in the first few pages was the only objectionable part of this otherwise marvelous story (Do 10 or 11 year olds really need to be exposed to the concept of sperm donation?). His only friend is the chief statistician for the National Safety Department in Washington, with whom he speaks on a weekly basis. That is, until a new girl moves to town and joins his class. Sarah Kervick, who is a thoroughly unhygienic specimen, becomes Franklin's greatest ally, through a number of unpredictable events. Kindness, sensitivity, courage, belief in oneself, lack of prejudice and acceptance are all themes that are dealt with maturely in this very likable and readable story. Recommended. 2003, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 9 to 12.
— Cindy L. Carolan
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-"My name, if you must know, is Franklin Delano Donuthead. Try saying that in a room full of fifth graders if you think names will never hurt you." Franklin's mother is a "cable guy," his father, an unknown sperm donor. His life in the small town of Pelican View is changed forever when he meets Sarah Kervick, a new girl who's so neglected that her long hair is a rat's nest of tangles. Franklin is compulsively careful and clean, and holds lengthy phone conversations with a woman at the National Safety Department. Sarah is almost exactly the opposite, and doesn't "take crap from anyone." When she wants him to steal wart remover for her, Franklin's primary fear of prison is "-bathing barefoot." Their prickly relationship is cemented by Sarah's affection for Franklin's gem of a mother, who wants him to play baseball, but is just as happy to discover Sarah's talents in this area. There's a lot going on in this story, it's true, but the author succeeds in smoothly carrying the action to a satisfying conclusion, and in delivering some lovely messages about kindness and hope and being true to yourself. It's refreshing for a novel with problem situations to be so light and funny. An appealing story with some memorable characters and a lot of heart.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stauffacher takes a stock premise-an improbable friendship between two psychologically opposite 11-year-olds helps them both mature-adds some smartly executed secondary characters and themes involving the importance of courage, hope, and dreams and turns it into something unique and magical. It's narrated in the pitch-perfect, painfully funny first-person voice of Franklin Delano Donuthead, a boy cursed with an unfortunate moniker, an unknown sperm-donor father, a fearful personality, and an unhealthy obsession with germs. His life, which is ruled by a philosophy of risk-avoidance, changes dramatically when Sarah Kervick, who is filthy, tough, and deeply determined, joins his class, and in a delightfully surprising turn of events is befriended and later hired by Franklin's sharply drawn baseball-loving mother. In time, the children forge an unlikely yet completely convincing alliance, enabling each to grow in ways that makes them more, as Sarah puts it, regular. Touching, funny, and gloriously human. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one

Just the Facts

My name, if you must know, is Franklin Delano Donuthead.

Try saying that in a room full of fifth graders if you think names will never hurt you.

The Donuthead part comes from way back, from my great-great-great-great-grandfather who came to the United States during the famous turnip famine. Of course he didn't speak a lick of English. His Russian name was something like Donotscked. Somehow, when he came out of the ferry office at Ellis Island with a piece of paper in his hand, he was a Donuthead.

So, basically, I come from a long line of suffering Russian Donutheads.

All the suffering could have been avoided if it weren't for Washington Irving, this very famous writer who recorded the events of his life in his journal. One day, he wrote about these little balls of sweetened dough he liked fried up in hog fat. He called them dough nuts. Because, you see, the very first doughnuts were shaped like lumpy brown walnuts.

If only he'd stuck with the name the Dutch people gave them. They were the ones who created them, anyway. They called them olykoeks. If he had called them olykoeks, my life would have been very different, I assure you.

Then again, with my luck, I would have been named Franklin Delano Olykoekhead.

My mother is a major major fan of our thirty-second president. She likes to listen to the radio addresses that Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave when he came into office during the Great Depression. Believe it or not, she listens to them in her van during her workday. She has them all on tape.

"If FDR could rise above a life-threatening illness to become president of the United States, then you should be able to rise above the curse of a name like Donuthead to at least play third base for the New York Yankees," my mother says.

I think this is very unfair. Your mother gives you a name when you're all red and screaming and you have a pounding headache. You're not really in a position to question the "future" situation.

Now that I am eleven, I have pretty much accepted my life. I'm a Russian Donuthead who's named after a great handicapped president.

In some twisted way, this all makes sense. Because, you see, I too am handicapped. Yes, one side of my body is shorter than the other. My mother says this is my imagination, but I am here to tell you that a tape measure does not lie.

"Maybe you're just growing from side to side," she says. "One side first and then the other."

While this may be possible, I think it's highly unlikely. I have found no evidence to support this theory. Currently, there is an eight-tenths-of-an-inch difference between my left arm and my right arm, and a four-tenths-of-an-inch difference between my left leg and my right leg. Just yesterday, when I measured my legs after school, I found my toe creeping closer to the five. I am preparing myself mentally to have legs that look like they belong on two different bodies. Both my left arm and my left leg are longer. At this rate, I'm going to have to go to one of those special stores to be fitted for my Sunday suits. Soon, I'll be buying shoes with one high heel.

All my mother cares about is how this will affect my ability to play third base for the New York Yankees. I keep telling her that with my athletic ability, I'd be lucky if they hired me to chalk out the field. I think it's so pathetic how parents are always trying to transfer their dreams onto their kids.

So far, I've just focused on staying alive. If I didn't know there was an astonishingly high probability that I would live through each day–given my age, general health, and relatively high standard of living–I would not get out of bed in the morning.

I avoid motor vehicles whenever possible. According to the National Safety Department, this is by far the most likely way to die as a kid. I also avoid all bodies of water (drowning's number two), and anything that would cause a death-inducing accident (number three). This could be, oh, say, being hit in the temple by a hard grounder down the third base line. In addition, I never play with matches or firearms; never climb trees, ladders, or fences; change the smoke detector batteries every three months; do not drink liquids that are stored under the sink or put any plastic bags over my head.

Gloria Nelots, the chief statistician for the National Safety Department in Washington, has already offered me a job when I graduate from college–if I should live that long. She and I talk at least once a week.

Me: Good morning, Gloria.

Gloria: What is it now, Franklin?

Me: My school is planning a field trip to a working farm.

Gloria: And . . .

Me: I was just wondering . . . what is the likelihood of me being crushed by a moving tractor?

Gloria: Remote.

Me: Trapped in a hay silo and suffocated by grain?

Gloria: They don't make percentages that small.

Me: Can mad cow disease be transmitted by saliva? I mean, if a cow licks me, and . . .

Gloria: Franklin, you would have to eat it, and since you never touch red meat . . .

Me: Gloria, I think you should know our school bus does not have seat belts.

Gloria: I'll get someone on it right away, Franklin.

Me: It's Bus Number 987 in the Pelican View School District. In addition, I think the rear tires are overinflated, causing premature baldness. I was just wondering, Gloria . . .

Gloria: You won't get a note from me, Franklin, if that's what you're angling for. I think it's perfectly safe for you to go to the farm.

Me: Well, obviously, I'm concerned for the safety of all the students, not just myself. Recently, I noticed that several children have been coming to school with their shoes untied. These are young children, Gloria . . .

Gloria: Franklin?

Me: Yes?

Gloria: Do you ever think about girls?

Me: Girls, Gloria?

Gloria: I think it would be better for your health if you thought about girls rather than disasters. Stress plays a major role in the leading causes of death in this nation.

Well, let me tell you, I didn't have anything to say to that. I just had to hang up right then. After all, Gloria is a girl. How could I tell her that girls filled me with so much stress they ought to come with warning labels?

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