Friday, June 12, 2009

The Dunderheads

Fleischman, Paul. 2009. The Dunderheads. Illustrated by David Roberts. Candlewick Press.

I'll be honest. I did not like this one...much. I know that it's intended to be funny and snarky. And irresistible too. Clever kids outwitting a mean adult, a teacher. It's not that the teacher didn't deserve it. She did. And then some. And it's not even that I am so offended by the mean-and-ugly teacher stereotype going on.

"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!"

Okay, so that is pretty rhythmic and catchy. If you're going to insult someone, I guess you could always do worse.

That was her first mistake: the insult. Mistake number 2: no eye for talent. An easy mistake to make, in our case.

Note the electric chair in the classroom. Perhaps because of this, the teacher underestimates her class.

Miss Breakbone hated kids.
Every time she made a student cry, she gave herself a gold star.
Confiscating was her specialty.
Rumor had it she'd bought her electric chair from selling all the stuff she'd taken away.
When the kids in her class have had enough, they plot, plot, plot a way to get their stuff back, a way to teach Miss Breakbone a lesson. Individually, no one can tackle her...and hope to win. But working together, can this team of students do the impossible? Can they break Miss Breakbone?

The premise of this is fun. And most readers will probably enjoy it more than I did. What with the plotting, pranking, and spitting. In some ways, it reminded me of one of my favorite cartoons--Recess. Man, I loved that show!

This is a picture book for older readers. (Still elementary-aged, mind you. But not for the preschool/pre-K crowd. Perhaps for third and fourth graders?) And it's nice to see an engaging picture book for older readers with a lot of appeal.

I'm not sure why I didn't like this one...excepting that the illustrations aren't to my taste. I think they're suited to the story. They match the style of the story well enough. I think this book will be appealing to others. It's just not my style.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

1 comment:

Rawley said...

Hi Becky! I wasn't crazy about this one either, but my students LOVED it! The illustrations got their attention and they liked how all of the kids used their unique talents to work together. It took about a week for them to quit calling each other "Dunderheads."