cover image The Dunderheads

The Dunderheads

Paul Fleischman, , illus. by David Roberts. . Candlewick, $16.99 (54pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2498-9

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)