Books by Don Wulffson

THE GOLDEN RAT by Don Wulffson
FICTION
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

A sullen teen expresses grief over his mother's death and anger at his father's quick remarriage by slacking off his studies and unloading resentment on his immediate family. However, this familiar story line unfolds in 12th-century China, where the consequences of teen alienation prove severe. When Baoliu's stepmother is murdered, he is falsely accused, quickly tried and sentenced to death. His father pays to have a peasant die in Baoliu's place but disowns his son, believing him to be guilty. Formerly a pampered rich kid, Baoliu is thrown, penniless and despised, into a harshly unforgiving world. Zhou, a streetwise boy, befriends him and together they work to solve the mystery of who the killer was and to clear Baoliu's name. Along the way, Baoliu and readers get more than a taste of the vile living conditions suffered by the peasantry. The gulf between rich and poor and the brutal oppression of those trying to survive at the bottom of the heap are vividly illustrated, but never overpower the exciting, fast-paced adventure story. A good choice for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 11+)Read full book review >
SOLDIER X by Don Wulffson
HISTORY
Released: March 1, 2001

Almost 16 years old in 1944, Erik Brandt finds himself on a German troop train headed for the Eastern Front in Russia. Because his mother was born in Russia, he is bilingual and has volunteered to be an interpreter. What he and his fellow teenaged recruits find is that they are thrown into the front line of a battle near Tarnapol as part of an infantry division. Wounded in the trenches, Erik changes clothing with a dead Russian soldier and finds himself in a Russian field hospital feigning amnesia and constantly worrying about his Russian accent. In the weeks that follow, he gains assurance and friends and proves useful as an orderly. He is almost comfortable and less apprehensive until the moment that he spills hot oil on himself and cries out in German. The young Russian girl who hears him, Tamara, says nothing, and later becomes his companion as together, on foot, they flee a German offensive. Walking west through the Ukraine, facing danger and starvation, they use their increasingly effective survival skills and miraculously are taken in by a Czech woman who lives alone in her grand, war-damaged estate. Erik and Tamara grow to love each other and she stays faithful to him even as he is seriously wounded by American soldiers. Based on the lives of the author and his wife, this harrowing tale opens and concludes with the words of the adult Brandt. It is a compelling, graphic, and bloody depiction of war from the viewpoint of a raw recruit who is neither a Hitler fanatic nor a convert to communism. He simply and movingly records the daily horrors of living in a battlefield and his determination to survive and live freely. (Historical fiction. YA)Read full book review >
TOYS! by Don Wulffson
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2000

Wulffson follows up The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle (1997) with the sometimes quirky tales behind more than two dozen novelties, gadgets and games, from playing cards and wind-up toys to Play-Doh. Some (tops, seesaws) have long histories, some (whoopee cushions) only seem to have been around forever, and some (Trivial Pursuit) are of recent vintage. The author brushes in their origins and variations with broad strokes, livening the picture further with factoids at each chapter's end, and Keller's gnomic, black-and-white cartoon figures lighten the tone further by cracking wise on the side. The generalizations may sometimes shade over into oversimplifications ("There is even an Asian religion based on kite flying"), and there is nothing about Pokémon or other current crazes, but these accounts of the origins of super balls, Raggedy Ann, Legos, Twister, Pong and the like will give middle graders new insight into their parents' misspent youths—and a bibliography and a list of Web sites will give readers who want all the details a head start. (Nonfiction. 9-11) Read full book review >