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Donutheart    by Sue Stauffacher order for
by Sue Stauffacher
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Franklin Delano Donutheart, sixth-grader at Pelican View Middle School, has a prodigious namesake and mentor - Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Donutheart often calls on quotations of the 32nd U.S. president to bolster his determination and support his beliefs. FDR said: 'When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.' And that is what Franklin is set on doing as he approaches his new grade. On the first day of sixth grade, his goal is 'getting through the day intact - it is a risk factor' and there's a new challenge relative to 'The Ponytail Express', i.e. 'a complicated relay of feminine persons darting back and forth across the hallway.'

Franklin suffers from paruresis (a fear or urinating in public). He has deduced that 'The sad state of boys' bathroom facilities had not yet hit the national scene when FDR was in office ... he had to figure out the Depression and World War II first. Historians could also argue that FDR was more concerned with job security than risk avoidance. But I (Donutheart) am living proof that times have changed ... So, every time I stand outside the boys' bathroom, health promotion and risk avoidance start duking it out in my mind.' A list of Donutheart's principles are likened to FDR's New Deal: 'Mental Improvement, Health Promotion, and Risk Avoidance'. Donutheart is a pacifist, eats and drinks only organic substances, is preoccupied with hygiene and safety, and is concerned about his mom's feelings especially with regard to her new boyfriend Paul (the ice-rink Zamboni driver).

On top of the aforesaid, Donutheart also is worried that best-friend Bernie may be moving to another state, plus the biggie - his consuming heartthrob for classmate Glynnis Powell. Franklin made a schedule of where Glynnis will be at certain times, so that he can bump into her. As to Franklin's restroom difficulties, Sarah Kervick stands guard for his privacy and gives advice such as running the tap while attending to bodily functions. Speaking of Sarah, she can be described with the letter 't' - talented and tough. Franklin's advice: 'If you value your life, you should never push Sarah Kervick and remain in striking range' as football player and Donutheart's nemesis Marvin Howerton finds out.

Back to Sarah - her talent is figure ice-skating, and she is gooooood! Because of her difficult home situation - living with a dad who drinks too much, takes off without notice, and loses jobs - Franklin's mom gives motherly attention to Sarah. Skating and ice-time takes money, so besides Ms. Donutheart helping out with expenses by cleaning the school's locker rooms, there is Chief Statistician Gloria Nelots (Franklin's authoritative contact at the National Safety Department in Washington, DC). Gloria bought Sarah a grand pair of figure skates, so she can pursue her passion. Sarah, however, does not want to be seen performing in a skating skirt, insists on wearing warm-up pants, and there's something very sad about her that she has not divulged to anyone. Franklin coaches Sarah in her skating, applying the law of physics in recommending how to execute the ice moves.

Sue Stauffacher presents delicate matters of the heart and life with aplomb, including tablespoons of humor here and there. She addresses self-actualization, ice-skating techniques, interpersonal relationships, courage, friendship, and heroism. We all know that the best intentions sometimes go haywire, and underneath all Franklin's strictness of hygiene and studies, he has a big, soft spot in his heart. The reader cannot help but develop a soft spot for Donutheart, as he comes out ahead when it comes right down to the nitty gritty of life!

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