A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sarah's solution for dealing with the school bully -- beating him up -- is presented as sensible and earns her respect. Franklin is obsessed with danger and spends much time researching all the ways in which children can be hurt and get sick.
What's the story?
Franklin Delano Donuthead has more problems than his name. He is obsessed with health, safety, and cleanliness. His mother, who is just the opposite, doesn't know what to do with him except to try to get him to play baseball. He is bullied at school and has no friends, except for Gloria, the chief statistician for the National Safety Department, whom Franklin calls at least once a week to discuss all the ways a boy can be injured, maimed, sickened, or killed.
Sarah, the new girl in his class, turns his world upside down. She is everything he is not -- tough, filthy, and illiterate -- and she soon becomes fast friends with Franklin's mother. But Sarah, as Franklin's mother says, has \"real problems: she lives in poverty with her abusive father, but dreams of being a figure skater. And Franklin finds himself being drawn very reluctantly into a group of people who are trying to make her dreams come true.
Is it any good?
What sounds in synopsis like a cardboard comedy, filled with stereotypical characters and stock situations, becomes in author Stauffacher's deft treatment an affecting story with surprising depth. She manages to make Franklin's weird personality believable by combining utter consistency with a light touch, never going too far or making the humor too broad.
But though Franklin is the engaging and humorous narrator, it's not really his story: He is more or less just along for the ride as his mother undertakes Sarah's reclamation. Like Huck Finn, Franklin often describes what he does not really understand, but unlike Twain's character, he gradually starts to get it, and it is that dawning understanding, and eventually even empathy, that enables his heart to begin to gain parity with his intellect. And that's a story worth reading.