The Dunderheads
  • Alternative view 1 of The Dunderheads
  • Alternative view 2 of The Dunderheads

The Dunderheads

4.0 1
by Paul Fleischman, David Roberts

View All Available Formats & Editions

Dunderheads, unite! A tyrannical teacher gets her just due in a delightfully subversive, outrageously funny tale by Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman.

Miss Breakbone hates kids. Especially the time-squandering, mindwandering, doodling, dozing dunderheads in her class. But when she confiscates Junkyard’s crucial fi nd, she fi nally goes too far.


Dunderheads, unite! A tyrannical teacher gets her just due in a delightfully subversive, outrageously funny tale by Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman.

Miss Breakbone hates kids. Especially the time-squandering, mindwandering, doodling, dozing dunderheads in her class. But when she confiscates Junkyard’s crucial fi nd, she fi nally goes too far. Enter Wheels (and his souped-up bike with forty-eight extra gears), Pencil (who can draw anything from memory), Spider (look up and you’ll fi nd him), and their fellow misfi ts in a spectacular display of teamwork aimed at teaching Miss Breakbone a lesson she won’t soon forget. From the incomparable Paul Fleischman comes a winning cast of underdogs — and one of the most terrifying teachers you’ll ever meet — brought to vivid life in David Roberts’s quirky, hilarious illustrations.

Editorial Reviews

Kristi Jemtegaard
David Roberts's illustrations are a stroke of comedic genius. Subtle visual homages to cartooning greats (Charles Addams, George Booth and even a touch of Edward Gorey) as well as sly cultural references…may pass right over young readers' heads, but adults who read this with their kids will relish the inside jokes. Kids will just plain relish the book.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The fiendish Miss Breakbone-a teacher with her own electric chair and a subscription to Guard Dog Lovers Monthly-is no match for her students, once they put their heads together. They have no choice: Miss Breakbone has insulted them ("doodling, dozing, don't-knowing dunderheads!"), confiscated a cat figurine that Junkyard was saving for his mother's birthday and then dared them to retaliate. Einstein, the genius hero, marshals his classmates' skills (hypnotism, spitballs, perfect knowledge of movie plots) and pulls off the perfect break-in. Action and zaniness animate every page of this picture book/early reader hybrid, but the story's real virtue is Newbery winner Fleischman's (Joyful Noise) appreciation for kids whose loser exteriors hide unexpected talent (each gets an apt nickname). "I nodded to Clips," Einstein says about the kid whose creations help them enter Miss Breakbone's lair. "His reading scores were low. His math scores were worse. But if they tested for paper-clip chains..." Roberts's (The Dumpster Diver) drawings, with their delicate lines and sly cultural references (Miss Breakbone looks like a cold war-era prison guard), convey just the right note of dastardly charm. Schoolchildren will adore this story of pupil revenge. Ages 6-10. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Miss Breakbone, a teacher who hates kids, makes her first mistake when she insults the class, calling them dunderheads. Then she humiliates Theodore, called Junkyard, and takes away the cat figure that he was saving for his mother's birthday present. Our clever narrator, known as Einstein, must figure out a way to outwit Miss Breakbone and get the cat back. He uses the special talent of each class member to show the teacher how wrong she is. Wheels finds her house and pencil sketches it inside and out. Spider, Hollywood, Clips, and Spitball all join the rescue crew. Despite the party at Breakbone's house, they manage to get inside. When they find the important box, Nails gets it open while Google-Eyes hypnotizes the intruding maid. The cat is rescued for Junkyard's mom and an extra-surprising happy ending. Roberts' imaginative page designs and sketchy pen and ink drawings, brightly touched with watercolors, create individual characters with almost magical attributes: a helmeted Wheels rides a complex unicycle; Google-Eyes has large glasses with spiral lenses; Clips is a paper clip wizard; Nails has fingernails shaped like saw blades, screwdrivers, and keys; Hollywood has every movie ever made; and so forth. Check them out on the end papers. Imaginatively designed pages include scenes filled with buildings, fences, and spooky interiors. We feel that evil Miss Breakbone gets what she deserves. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5

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.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
A group of underachievers engages in a battle of wits with their unsympathetic teacher and emerges triumphant. Sound familiar? Maybe so, but readers have never seen the story play out quite this way before. Fleischman's characters verge on caricature-the problem-solving narrator is a clever boy nicknamed Einstein, his friend Junkyard collects cast-off items from everywhere and the ominously named Miss Breakbone delights in tormenting her students-and Roberts's watercolor-and-pen-and-ink illustrations, reminiscent of Edward Gorey's work, exaggerate their quirky qualities. The plot is deliciously outlandish, featuring an undercover caper complete with a hidden safe, grappling hooks made of paperclips, a classmate who just happens to be a hypnotist and a broken statuette with (real) emerald eyes. Of course the kids succeed-the only real mystery is whether their adventure will find an appreciative audience. Younger kids will likely miss the many references to classic films and other inside jokes, while older readers might have the tragically mistaken impression that this is beneath them. Share with special readers; it's well worth the effort. (Fiction. 7-10)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.20(d)
430L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Paul Fleischman won the Newbery Medal for JOYFUL NOISE: POEMS FOR TWO VOICES and a Newbery Honor for GRAVEN IMAGES. Among his award-winning picture books are SIDEWALK CIRCUS, THE ANIMAL HEDGE, and WESTLANDIA. He lives in Aromas, California.

David Roberts is the author-illustrator of the Bertie books and the illustrator of many books for children, including THE DUMPSTER DIVER by Janet S. Wong. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Dunderheads 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters, clever, can't wait for more stories about these school yard misfits whose flawed character traits are treasures within their social circle.