Tuesday, April 7, 2009


by Sue Stauffacher
Language: English 
New York: Random House, 2003
144 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN: 0375824685; 9780375824685
Recommended for ages: 9-12
Protagonist: boy, 11
LOC Summary: 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.
My review: "Sometimes I try to imagine what my own father looks like. We have never met him. He just...well...provided the ingredients. I don't know how to talk about this to people who don't already know. Some people think a child who is the product of a mom and a sperm donor is just plain weird. If only they knew - there are millions of us in schools across America!" So asserts Franklin Delano Donuthead who often wonders about his father, and who feels different from most people, not always because he is the product of sperm donation, but because of his obsession with hygiene, and his one leg which he perceives to be shorter than the other.

Other than Franklin always knowing that he was the product of sperm donation, his mother doesn't tell him much about his origins, only that she "wanted a healthy guy," and a "normal-dog-loving-athletic sports fan" which Franklin most definitely is not. Franklin understands his origins though by creating the metaphor of his mother having wanted to bake a cake, but not having all the ingredients. But "my mother wanted a baby, not a cake (and) this required sperm, not flour. And since I bear little resemblance to my mother in either looks or personality, she may have grabbed the container that advertised: 'sensitive-intelligent-asymmetrical-immaculate male' in her rush to get the whole business over with." This is what Mom got instead, as Franklin defends when he says, "I can hardly be held responsible for my own genes, now can I?"

Franklin is a well-developed and hysterically funny character who has a friend at the CDC who he checks in with regularly because he is so tormented by germs, so much so that he has to sing the entire "Happy Birthday" song all the way through while washing his hands or he feels his hands have not spent a sufficient amount of time in contact with soap and water. Franklin's being the product of sperm donation is not the main plot of the book. His friendship with the disshelved new girl in his class is. But the author has done a good job creating a credible back story for Franklin and of bringing up some of the legitimate concerns that may have a bearing on some sperm donor children.  At one point, wondering whether a certain male teacher could be his father because he too has one leg shorter than the other, has the same build, hair and eye color, as well as an obsession with cleanliness, leads Franklin to wonder whether discovering who his "real, true, flesh-and-blood father" is would be a disappointment, and "would, in fact, be worse than not knowing." This is however a funny book and not a heavy one, and children of sperm donors may enjoy meeting a funny character who shares the same origins. This book was published in 2003 and happens to be the very first young adult book with a donor offspring character.
Book Reviews: Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Horn Book
Awards: Nene Award, (nominated) Prairie Pasque Award 2006, (nominated), Rhode Island Children's Book Award 2005, (nominated) William Allen White Children's Book Award 2006, (won) Bluegrass Award 2006, (nomiated), Sequoyah Book Award 2006, (nominated), Maud Hart Lovelace Award (nominated)


1 comment:

  1. Hi Patricia,
    I am happy to find your research on locating YA books for Di Kids. As a middle school teacher, I have encountered students seeking support for their coping with news of being 'donor conceived". Searching for fiction literature that features a protagonist grappling with the same issues is hard to find, indeed. So, I have embarked on the challenge of writing such a novel. Your work is most beneficial as I learn more about the science involved, I need links to the emotional inner conflicts DI kids have. Reading about kids of their age allows them to learn they are not alone in this. Fiction is my vehicle for a bit of freedom to create the scenarios. I want the emotional struggles, questions and quest to be real enough to be helpful to the reader. Thanks for your labors. I have been a fan of librarians since age 7 when the Library Lady in my hometown took an interest in me and my reading. Hats off.... and why isn't there a National Love Your LIbrarian Day? THink I must instigate one. You are at the top of the Librarian List for your hard to find searches. Thanks. Lisa