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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Dunderheads, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by David Roberts. Candlewick, Random House. 2009. $19.00 ages 6 and up

"Never," shrieked Miss Breakbone, "have I been asked to teach such a scraping-together of fiddling, twiddling, time-squandering, mind-wandering, doodling, dozing, don't-knowing dunderheads!"

Oh, this so reminded me of Matilda and other books by Roald Dahl where the young 'uns outsmart their elders. In this particular case, we cheer them on, for who has ever met a more horrid teacher than the tank-sized, mean-mouthed, degrading Miss Breakbone. She hates kids and they hate her. When someone gets in any little tiny bit of trouble, she takes what treasure they carry and vows that these special items will never see the light of day again. The final straw is when she takes the gift that Junkyard has bought for his much loved Mom. She has crossed the line and pushed too far! It is time for the students to take action. And there is much action, believe me. It is an open and shut case of kids versus a much bigger and oh so malicious villain. There is much humor here for young readers and irreverance. It is a perfect story for repeated hilarious readings.

It is great teamwork that makes it work. Einstein is the brainy one...and the leader. Each member of the team has her/his special skill and each is used to its utmost. While Miss Breakbone entertains her party guests, the Dunderheads steathily make their way into her house and retrieve Junkyard's most prized possession from the strongbox. It is every child's fantasy to one-up a despised adult...and here they get to do just that. We all cheer at their ingenuity and their comradeship.

Meet Wheels, Nails, Einstein, Junkyard, Hollywood, Spider, Spitball, Google-Eyes and Clips...each blessed with an ability to outsmart and outplay Miss Breakbone at her own game. What fun!

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