cover image Donutheart


Sue Stauffacher, . . Knopf, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83275-8

The obsessive-compulsive hero of Donuthead , now in sixth grade, finds that the social and microbial challenges of middle school are nearly enough to do him in. Sarah, Franklin's unlikely best friend from book one, also faces tests: hers may be scarier, but she talks about them less. The author spends a bit too much time reviewing old material, and the story doesn't ignite until halfway through, when Sarah, who has learned how to figure skate faster than you can say "flying camel," soars in her first exhibition. The scatological humor may well appeal to the elementary school crowd, but the overarching message here is about maturity: Stauffacher charts that big leap from boy to man as Franklin blushes at his young teacher's bare shoulder, and sizes up his unrequited love for the perfect Glynnis Powell. As Gloria (his contact from the National Safety Department, first met in Donutheart ) points out, "It's called 'growing up,' Franklin. You are beginning to notice that other people have needs wholly unconnected to your health.... It's a good sign.'' Franklin shows he understands when he does something to help Sarah that violently clashes with his ironclad policy of risk-avoidance. Those who loved the first book will want to read this one, and since many issues (Sarah's messy home life, Franklin's mystery sperm-donor dad) remain unresolved, they'll hope for a third to tie things up. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)