Cover image for Donuthead
Stauffacher, Sue, 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2003]

Physical Description:
144 pages ; 22 cm
Franklin Delano Donuthead, a fifth-grader obsessed with hygiene and safety, finds an unlikely friend and protector in Sarah Kervick, the tough new student who lives in a dirty trailer, bonds with his mother, and is as "irregular" as he is.
Reading Level:
850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.6 6.0 74691.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.2 9 Quiz: 36395 Guided reading level: S.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3-6. Franklin Delano Donuthead is pathologically fearful of germs, junk food, and making friends. His single mom, on the other hand, is spunky and caring, a credible magnet for Sarah, the new girl at Franklin's school who tries to bully him into helping her get the snarls out of her filthy hair. Despite the bad beginning, Franklin eventually allows himself to care about Sarah, not only helping her to tackle reading but also helping another friend manage a good deed on Sarah's behalf. For her part, Sarah knows how to dispatch the real class bully while showing Franklin a thing or two about the people around him. Stauffacher does go into some unusual, ocassionally dark, places here--Sarah's hardscrabble home life, Donuthead's pathological fears and his parentage (he's the product of artificial insemination)--but the gentle humor and the accessible treatment of some very real issues balances everything quite nicely. --Francisca Goldsmith Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Narrator Franklin Delano Donuthead deals with all the normal pressures of fifth grade, as well as a fairly advanced case of obsessive-compulsive disorder and a most unfortunate name. Franklin's fears control his every move and thought, and one of the book's most enjoyable sidelines is Franklin's friendship with Gloria, the chief statistician at the National Safety Department in Washington: "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)." The 11-year-old is convinced that his arms and legs are slightly different in length, and keeps a daily log of their measurements. Into his extremely insular world comes a new classmate, Sarah, a rough tomboy who is his opposite in every way. Franklin's attempt to put distance between them are foiled by his mother's desire to help the girl, who clearly has a rough home life. Soon it is Franklin's turn to help Sarah who, like her father, cannot read. If the trajectory of this tale of empathy and growth is familiar, it's Franklin's engaging narration that will keep readers enthralled. Stauffacher's (The Angel and Other Stories) insightful novel offers a good-natured optimism as well as some hilarious asides from the obsessive hero. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



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? Excerpted from Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.