Summary: The Dunderheads is the tale of a class full of misfits and the teacher despises them. Miss Breakbone is a terrible teacher who hates her class that she views as lazy and stupid. After making one of the students cry by taking away his newest treasure, the class can take it no more. Spider, Pencil and Wheels, or the Dunderheads, decide to fight back and retrieve what was taken from them. They stage an elaborate plan to break into Miss Breakbone’s house and teach her a lesson.
Citation: Fleischman, P. (2009). The dunderheads. Westminster, MD: Candlewick Press.
Impression: This is a hilarious book, especially for young readers that can relate to the teacher’s seemingly senseless rules and actions. The aptly named Miss Breakbone can be envisioned as any terrible teacher that a student’s has had the misfortune of being in their class. The illustrations are colorful and quirky; they lend themselves well to the tale.
84. Available from School Library Journal website: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com
As long as children must endure the whims of tyrannical teachers, there will be an appreciative audience for a book such as this. Miss Breakbone suffers no fools; she refers to her class as "fiddling, twiddling, time-squandering...dunderheads!" Her militaristic form is capped by severe red hair and a menacing mouth; the latter is wide open and shrieking insults on the first page. Her alligator purse, warden-style key ring, and electric chair offer further inklings into her psyche. She makes Viola Swamp look like Glenda the Good Witch. When she confiscates Junkyard's latest find and makes him cry, the class reaches the tipping point. They devise elaborate plans to retrieve the treasure from the teacher's fortresslike home. The talents of the children in this diverse group are foreshadowed by their nicknames, e.g., Spider, Spitball, Google-Eyes, and Hollywood. Together, the Dunderheads are a formidable force, and Roberts's quirky watercolor and ink interpretations of Fleischman's deadpan humor and impeccable pacing produce hilarious results. The compositions are a pleasing mixture of busy scenes, with funny or important details rendered via judicious touches of color, gray washes, and black line work and ample white space. The spreads are sometimes defined by "panels," whose straight and curved lines form unexpected shapes and add another element of excitement to the dynamic diagonals and extreme perspectives. This book will raise an adult eyebrow or two, but young readers will relish each solution in this satisfying celebration of multiple intelligences, teamwork, and kid power
Uses: The Dunderheads would be an awesome book for a class visit. Pair this up with Miss Nelson is Missing and prepare for a very amusing storytime. This could also lead to a discussion about appropriate behavior in the library and classroom for the both the students and the teachers. It would also be a great book to add to a display in the fall for returning to school.