Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Dunderheads

By Paul Fleischman and illustrated by David Roberts

Candlewick Press, 2009

$16.99, ages 4-8

If you think saying the title of this book is fun, wait until you get inside this story about a quirky class of kids who plan revenge on the meanest teacher ever.

First you have to meet the menace herself, their teacher Miss Breakbone, or I should say, get past her. She fills out the first page of the book in her metal grey suit and sneers down at you as she insults her class for being twiddling, mind-wandering "dunderheads."

Until now Miss Breakbone has run roughshod over the class, giving herself gold stars for making students cry and confiscating things her students bring to class -- rumor has it to trade in for an electric chair. But now she's taken away classmate Theodore's statue of a one-eyed cat, which he dug up from a dumpster to give to his mother, and dared the class to try to get it back.

And that's exactly what they do. Theodore enlists class whiz Einstein to come up with a plan to break into Miss Breakbone's house and it takes all of their peculiar talents to outwit her.

Wheels, a tinkerer of bikes, follows Breakbone's car home in his souped up two-wheeler, then Pencil, who can draw anything from memory, slips inside the house to scope it out. And on the day of the heist, Spider, whose home is virtual climbing gym, helps the class scale the wall around her yard, while Hollywood -- a movie buff whose eyes are adjusted to dark theaters -- leads them in the dark past a house-full of party guests.

Even when the unexpected happens -- four guard dogs pounce out of the dark -- the crew is resourceful. Google Eyes, whose eyes spiral, hypnotizes the dogs and Spitball takes out the motion detectors with one wad of saliva. It's up to Clips to throw his paper clip ropes to an open window and Google Eyes to put the maid in a trance so the crew can sneak into Breakbone's bedroom and stumble upon the strongbox holding the cat.

Great on so many levels, this witty, wonderful book by Newberry Medal winner Fleischman turns an insult into a badge of pride and shows what a plucky class of misfits can do when they band together.

No comments:

Post a Comment