The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts

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The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: An interesting tale of a gang of children who get one over on their vile teacher. It's pitched nicely at newly confident readers, although it doesn't quite conjure up enough atmosphere to be a firm favourite.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 56 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406322552

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The vile Miss Breakbone hates kids and is forever shouting at her class. When the teacher confiscates the one-eared cat that Theodore (better known as Junkyard) is giving to his mum for her birthday, the Dunderheads hatch a plan to get it back, and teach Miss Breakbone a valuable lesson. What follows is an elaborate plot, weaving elements of the Bash Street Kids with Mission Impossible.

There's plenty to enjoy in The Dunderheads. The rag tag cast of characters tick all the right boxes and are easy for children to identify with immediately. The idea of getting one over on a foul teacher is great fun and immediately has you cheering for the heroes. The text is clear and direct, making it ideal for newly confident readers or those who are a little older but slightly less confident. It successfully straddles the gap between picture book and longer story. The school setting means that younger readers won't fully get it, but if they're willing to give it a go, and are wanting more detailed picture books than usual, there's nothing really stopping you from reading it to them.

What stops me raving unreservedly about The Dunderheads is that it's a little less successful in straddling the stylistic gap between well-thumbed comic and cool action film. It doesn't quite have the familiar charm of something like The Beano or Roald Dahl's school stories, or the slickness of full-on junior action books (although they tend to be aimed at slightly older readers). It's not aiming exactly for either market, but at a midpoint that never quite creates enough of an atmosphere of its own. I'd call it a missed opportunity to be superb, rather than an out and out criticism though.

David Roberts' illustrations do a good job of trying to develop this atmosphere. They have a quirky and unique style that works wonderfully, particularly when you see Miss Breakbone in all her glory, towering over the children with a cruel sneer and thunderous bosom. There's plenty of detail on every page, and his pictures are well worth poring over, to see all the details and get a greater feel for the characters and their world.

I feel bad about not liking The Dunderheads more - it just didn't click with me as much as it should have done. Have a flick through it and see if it strikes a chord with you.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog by Mini Grey oozes charm, and is suitable for newly confident readers, as well as younger readers. Slightly older confident readers will love The Rose of Africa (Baker Street Mysteries) by Tim Pigott-Smith, with another rag tag gang doing their thing - this time, fighting crime in Victorian London.

Buy The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts at Amazon.com.

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