The Dunderheads

by Paul Fleischman

Other authorsDavid Roberts (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2009

Call number



Candlewick (2009), 56 pages


When Miss Breakbone confiscates Junkyard's crucial find, Wheels, Pencil, Spider, and the rest of the Dunderheads plot to teach her a lesson.

User reviews

LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Miss Breakbone is an evil teacher to rival Miss Trunchbull or Viola Swamp. She gives herself a gold star every time she makes a kid cry. And she thinks her students are just dunderheads. But when Miss Breakbone crosses the line, the so-called Dunderheads decide to get back what's theirs.

This is a
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fun book that kids will pore over, soaking up every interesting detail in the illustrations. I'd gladly hand it to fans of Roald Dahl or the Black Lagoon series. It's a little more than a picture book, but a little less than a chapter book, so I'm not sure where you'd shelve it and it'll probably need some hand-selling. But I think the kids who do pick it up will be drawn in by the multi-talented dunderheads' elaborate plan for revenge.
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LibraryThing member allawishus
This book is really fun and adorable. It's about a class of ragtag misfits whose teacher is Miss Breakbone (she hates kids). One day she goes too far in her "confiscating" and takes a present that Theodore ("Junkyard") had found for his mother. The class leader, "Einstein," hatches a plot to get
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the present back by utilizng all of his classmates' special talents. It's a fabulous book that really speaks to the idea that everyone has something unique to offer.

I loved the whimsical illustrations of all the classmates, especially "Junkyard" and "Google-eyes." Miss Breakbone is suitably menacing and rather large-busted, heh heh. Some of the artwork is presented in sequential art style; other times it's more traditional and picture-book-like.

The book would work as a read-aloud to school age kids who have longer attention spans. It's a tough book - it doesn't really belong in the primary section, and it definitely wouldn't work at a typical library storytime. But in a classroom setting, it could be fun and kids will definitely love it.
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LibraryThing member didaly
My 8-year-old loves this book so much it's the only thing he'll read at bedtime since he discovered it three days ago; the adult side of our reviewer team is almost as bedazzled, albeit with a few gripes.

In The Dunderheads, the perfect team as seen in The Five Chinese Brothers and Ocean's Eleven
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is almost perfectly narrated and illustrated for children. Funky kid fashion and weird areas of expertise (or "powers" to use the kid term) define a group of ten kids united by the insults and injustice of one villain, Miss Breakbone. As despicable as she is big-busted, Breakbone steals from children and makes them cry to augment the mansion she built with her menacingly-earned....teacher salary?

Yes, that's one problem. The villain is a teacher, and an inexplicably wealthy one. Another problem is that she has an electric chair, the kind by which capital punishment is delivered. So that was a fun conversation with my 8-year-old co-reviewer on page ten.

Mixed feelings about the diversity of the team. Of the ten, eight look like white kids, and seven are boys. The two central good characters: white, and boys. On the other hand, all characters including those female, black, and/or brown have a lot of personality, and great little shoes.

Gripes notwithstanding, I am thrilled with The Dunderheads, and will voraciously hunt down more work by both author Paul Fleischman and illustrator David Roberts. Rarely is a book so witty utterly absent of curse words.
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LibraryThing member Sarahfine
A short, charming book about a motley crew of students who use their various talents (bicycling, making paperclip chains, acrobatics) to reclaim a possession confiscated by an evil teacher. My personal favorite was "Hollywood," the movie expert, recruited for her ability to see in the dark (long
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hours of practice) and predict the location of safes, onset of danger, etc. Brings to mind Matilda and Sideways School stories, not least because of the intricate Quentin Blake-esque illustrations.
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LibraryThing member missbrandysue
I think this is a great book for children. The mean Miss Breakbone calls all of her students a bunch of horrible adjectives then steals a child's toy cat. So, they each use their own special gifts to break into Miss Breakbone's house and get the toy back. This story is very engaging, keeps you on
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your seat, and my students are going to love it.
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LibraryThing member KimJD
Third grade classes love this read-aloud with its over-the-top silliness as a group of "dunderheaded" students gets the best of a villainous teacher.
LibraryThing member awhite43
I enjoyed "The Dunderheads" by Paul Fleischman and Illustrator David Roberts. I liked the watercolor illustrations they reminded me of pen drawings you'd expect of children the same age as the Dunderheads. They emphasized the author's extreme descriptions of the student's eccentricities like
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Wheels' bike equipped with water fountain and Hollywood's massive movie collection. I also enjoyed the fact that the story and illustrations created a "Mission Impossible" like feel to the book as each of the Dunderheads uses their specific skills to overcome the obstacles they encounter like Ms. Breakbone's dogs and security system. The main idea of this book seems to be working together to overcome obstacles that can not be conquered on our own.
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LibraryThing member sarabeck
In my opinion, this was a really good book. I really liked the watercolor illustrations by David Roberts. They were very detailed and I thought they fit the written text appropriately. I also liked how the character’s emotions were conveyed through the illustrations throughout the book. The
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teacher, Miss Breakbone (who reminded me a lot of the Trunchbull from Matilda), always had a thick line for eyebrows, very rosy cheeks, grinning eyes, a nose as sharp as a needle, and an evil grin. On the very first page, Miss Breakbone takes up both pages and is accompanied by text that grows in size by each line. By having the teacher take up both pages, the illustration helps to convey how overpowering and downright mean she is. I also really enjoyed the variety of descriptive language used to describe the children’s various eccentricities. The illustrations also supported the vivid character descriptions. One of the children was referred to as Nails, because “he spends a lot of time on his fingernails, filing them into different shapes—saw blade, screwdrivers, letter opener, and keys.” I thought the accompanying illustrations were really helpful to imagine someone’s fingernails as different tools. The Dunderheads worked together and showed what they could accomplish using their variety of skills. This was a don’t-get-mad, get-even story and I thought the creativity used throughout the book was great. The main message of this story conveys the importance of teamwork and that obstacles can be over come.
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LibraryThing member Patrick-Shea14
The Dunderheads by Phil Fleischman

Parents need to know that this is not a book for younger kids. Most older kids will love the humor. However, the message is complicated (the teacher is evil, and the students work together to end her tyranny), and the cartoons are a bit scary (the classroom has an
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electric chair; there are ferocious dogs, etc.) The book is best for kids who have some experience with school and understand that this isn't a realistic portrayal of teachers and school.
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LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
When Miss Breakbone confiscates Junkyard's crucial find, Wheels, Pencil, Spider, and the rest of the Dunderheads plot to teach her a lesson.


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