The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne

The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne

4.0 1
by Barry Jonsberg
     
 

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From the moment Miss Payne (“The Hound of the Baskervilles, the English teacher from Hell. The Pitbull!”) walks into their classroom, Calma and Kiffo know she will have to go. After doing a bit of, well, teacher stalking, they are amazed to discover her having late-night rendezvous with suspicious associates. Could she be involved in the mob? The drug… See more details below

Overview

From the moment Miss Payne (“The Hound of the Baskervilles, the English teacher from Hell. The Pitbull!”) walks into their classroom, Calma and Kiffo know she will have to go. After doing a bit of, well, teacher stalking, they are amazed to discover her having late-night rendezvous with suspicious associates. Could she be involved in the mob? The drug trade? How fabulous!

But the more they work to prove Miss Payne is crooked, the more evidence they find of her innocence. Creeping hell! A teacher this heinous has got to be guilty of something—right?


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Calma Harrison, the smart, sassy narrator of this memorable first novel by an Australian high school teacher, shares an unlikely friendship with class clown and ne'er-do-well Jaryd Kiffing, known as "Kiffo." Jonsberg reveals the source of their bond in flashbacks on tinted pages, which hint at something terrible happening to each of them four years before. The main narrative begins in Year 10 English class with Kiffo driving off the teacher in a hilarious (unless you are a teacher) opening scene. The replacement, naturally, is far worse. Miss Payne has the "sensitivity of a paving slab," and looks ferocious enough to "disembowel a horse with her teeth." "The Pitbull" instantly makes it plain she plans to "break [Kiffo's] spirit." Calma agrees to help Kiffo get rid of her with a vague strategy that involves stalking which, miraculously, actually raises suspicions she's connected with drug dealing. The plot moves briskly from one calamitous misstep by the would-be detectives to another, but the action outside the classroom often teeters on the brink of absurdity. The momentum stumbles, too, when the story climaxes with a turn that feels unnecessarily harsh. Jonsberg recovers (the final twist is tantalizingly ambiguous) and Calma's assured and mostly comical account is well-nigh irresistible. It's similar to her complaint about teachers who get going on the subject of attitude: "They're like a train with brake failure on a long slope. There's nothing you can do until they stop rolling." Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
The 15-year-old protagonist of this novel, Calma Harrison, is a gifted writer. She also claims if there were an Olympic event for sarcasm, she would represent her country, which happens to be Australia. In the meantime, she and her best friend, the scruffy and unscrupulous Jaryd Kiffing (aka "Kiffo") are stuck in the classroom of the English teacher from hell after driving out all previous teachers with their antics. Not so fondly referred to as "the pit bull," Miss Payne has aroused their suspicions with furtive behavior. Calma and Kiffo, convinced that Miss Payne is a criminal, stalk her to bring her to justice by catching her in nefarious nighttime activities. This leads to many surprising and often hilarious plot turns and unexpected encounters between teacher and students before the plot turns abruptly tragic with a conclusion that Calma asserts is more natural, "considering all that's happened." Written by a high school English teacher in Australia, this book is not for the fainthearted. Calma is, indeed, a mistress of sarcasm, and Kiffo's ethics, because of his impoverished and abusive background, leave much to be desired. The book's themes center on how attractiveness and money tend to win the day, leaving the ugly and the underprivileged out in the cold, but ultimately, the theme could be summed up as "nothing is what it seems," and friendships like Calma's and Kiffo's should be emulated more often. KLIATT Codes: S*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Knopf, 257p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Myrna Marler
Children's Literature
Calma Harrison has a cynical view of the world, a very dry sense of humor and is a talented student in English class. It is a pity that her class (particularly one student named Jaryd Kiffing, otherwise known as "Kiffo") keeps driving teachers away. Surprisingly, the new teacher appears to be made of tougher stuff than the previous ones and the kids have met their match. Calma, who lives with her hard-working single mom, and the troublemaker Kiffo—for whom she has never felt an iota of compassion in the past—form a quirky friendship. They are suspicious of the after-hours activities of their new teacher (not so affectionately nicknamed the "Pitbull") and are determined to prove she is up to no good. However, the deeper they dig, the better the teacher looks and the worse they appear. An engaging story that has a unexpected and bizarre ending but overall is entertaining for high schoolers. The author is originally from the U.K., currently lives in Australia and holds two degrees in English. This is his first novel. Recommended. 2004, Knopf, Ages 14 up.
—Cindy L. Carolan
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2005: The 15-year-old protagonist of this novel, Calma Harrison, is a gifted writer. She also claims if there were an Olympic event for sarcasm, she would represent her country, which happens to be Australia. In the meantime, she and her best friend, the scruffy and unscrupulous Jaryd Kiffing (aka "Kiffo") are stuck in the classroom of the English teacher from hell after driving out all previous teachers with their antics. Not so fondly referred to as "the pit bull," Miss Payne has aroused their suspicions with furtive behavior. Calma and Kiffo, convinced that Miss Payne is a criminal, stalk her to bring her to justice by catching her in nefarious nighttime activities. This leads to many surprising and often hilarious plot turns and unexpected encounters between teacher and students before the plot turns abruptly tragic with a conclusion that Calma asserts is more natural, "considering all that's happened." Written by a high school English teacher in Australia, this book is not for the fainthearted. Calma is, indeed, a mistress of sarcasm, and Kiffo's ethics, because of his impoverished and abusive background, leave much to be desired. The book's themes center on how attractiveness and money tend to win the day, leaving the ugly and the underprivileged out in the cold, but ultimately, the theme could be summed up as "nothing is what it seems," and friendships like Calma's and Kiffo's should be emulated more often.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-In this uneven Australian novel, high school student Calma Harrison and her friend Kiffo decide to get revenge on a much-hated English teacher. Calma is bright and a good student but struggles to get along with her hardworking, single mother, who is rarely home. Flashbacks explain why she has befriended the troubled boy with a mysterious past. The two begin spying on Miss Payne, and Kiffo even breaks into her house. The conversation he overhears prompts the teens to believe that she might be selling drugs. Their further investigations lead to trouble: Calma eventually has run-ins with a counselor, the principal, and the school police officer over her apparent stalking of the woman. A final, shocking incident leads to tragedy and revelations about Kiffo's past. The protagonist intersperses her story with writing assignments, horoscopes, letters, surveys, and imagined movie scenes that-while creative and laced with her trademark sarcastic humor-sometimes feel forced and overshadow the plot. Calma is an appealing character, and her wisecracking tone hides deep emotions. Still, some of the situations seem highly implausible, and Kiffo's character never feels fully developed.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A first novel from Australia pits two unlikely friends against a battle-ax disciplinarian of a teacher. Calma Harrison is a bright student with a less than stellar attitude and Jaryd "Kiffo" Kiffing is a dismal student from the wrong side of the tracks with an infinitely worse attitude. When Kiffo meets his match in Miss Payne, a feud ensues. Calma and Kiffo go way back, so Calma insists on helping Kiffo stake out Miss Payne's house in the hopes of discovering evidence to confirm the theory that she is a drug dealer. The drug theme plays out on two levels; one told in short flashbacks that also reveal the origins of Calma's tight relationship with Kiffo. Calma's narrative voice is wittily sarcastic, clever and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. This does not prepare the reader for the stunning denouement that abruptly changes the voice as well as the point of the story. Still, this is a great read and definitely an author to watch. (Fiction. 12+)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307483416
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
02/25/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Barry Jonsberg is an English teacher in Darwin, Australia.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

ASSIGNMENT:
Write a description of a place, person or thing in such a way that you demonstrate an understanding of the use of similes.
RESPONSE:
Student's name: Calma Harrison
Subject: Jaryd Kiffing

Kiffo's hair is like a glowing sunset. However, unlike a sunset, it lasts for a long time and doesn't suddenly turn black and become studded with stars. It is as wild as a dingo on drugs and sticks up like ears of corn after a cyclone. Maybe like a field of corn that is the color of sunset and has been trampled by a whole load of drug-crazed dingoes during a cyclone.
Kiffo's nose is like butter on toast. It was put on hot and it spread. His nostrils gape like two huge caves, but it would be difficult to camp in them or even light a fire in them. Though it might be worth trying, I suppose. They drip like your bathing suit when you hang it over the pool railing to dry. His eyes are as brown as diarrhea, which only goes to prove that he is full of crap. Kiffo's teeth are like stars because they come out at night. No, that's just an old joke. His teeth are as white as sheets that were once white but have now become stained by unmentionable things. Kiffo's neck is short and dirty, like life. His arms are as thin as pencils, but if you try to sharpen them he'll probably bash you. His legs are bent like parentheses ( ), but unlike parentheses there is not much of interest between them. When he stands he is like a cowboy who hasn't realized that the horse he was riding has gone for a smoko break. He smells like a fish that you forgot was in the fridge.
His mind is as shallow as a gob of spit in a drained swimming pool. Kiffo is as intellectually challenging as a meeting of English teachers.

So. What do you think? Be honest. I mean, it's not as if we know each other, so you can say what you like and I'm not going to be offended. It would be different, I suppose, if we hung out together at the local mall, or invited each other for sleepovers, or you had my name tattooed on your left buttock. Your judgment would be clouded. There was a study done. I can't remember where, but I think it might have been in America. A psychologist compared students' classwork with their appearance and a direct correlation was found between physical attractiveness and grades. In other words, if you look like Brad Pitt or J.Lo then you are more likely to get an A than someone who looks like the rear end of a lower primate. Interesting, huh? I think there are three possible judgments, based on this research, we can make about teachers:

1.Teachers are, like the rest of humanity, flawed, and we should understand that they are subject to the same frailties as everyone else.
2.Teachers are superficial idiots.
3.Teachers are both of the above.

But if I've learned one thing over the last month or so, it's that judgments are very dangerous things.
Anyway, have you made your objective assessment of the simile exercise? Good. Hold that thought.
end of semester report:
Student's name: Calma Harrison
Teacher: Ms. Brinkin
Subject: English
Grade: A-
Attitude: C-
Comments:
Calma is an exceptionally talented student of English. Unfortunately, she seems determined to waste her considerable ability. She needs to understand that assignments must be taken seriously and are not merely an opportunity to display her quirky and, at times, immature sense of humor. I expect a marked improvement in her attitude next semester.

end of semester report:
Teacher's name: Ms. Brinkin
Student: Calma Harrison
Subject: English
Grade: D-
Attitude: C-
Comments:
Ms. Brinkin has a considerable talent for mediocrity and she seems determined to reach her full potential in this area. Her assignments are of an antiquity that would fascinate educational historians and she is justifiably proud of never having entertained an original idea. Her lessons are delivered in a whining monotone that only occasionally threatens to disturb the class's established sleeping patterns. An enormous improvement on last semester. Well done!

From the Hardcover edition.

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