Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dunderheads Behind Bars

School Library Journal (March 1, 2012)

Gr 2-5-Readers will cheer the return of the Dunderheads, that subversive and exuberant mixed bag of kids named for their unique aptitudes-e.g., Einstein, Wheels, Junkyard, etc. The gang is thrilled to start summer vacation and escape the clutches of their ghastly teacher, Miss Breakbone. But hiring on as extras for a movie starring their favorite actress, Ashley Throbb-Hart, they discover, miserably, that their detestable teacher has done the same. ("I thought she toured with the Women's Wrestling League in the summer," moans Nails.) Meanwhile, a cat burglar is breaking into local homes, and Miss Breakbone spitefully accuses Spider, with his talent for climbing, of being the thief. With him behind bars (the police chief is Miss Breakbone's brother-and alter ego), the Dunderheads go into all-hands-on-deck mode to hatch an ingenious Rube Goldberg-like scheme to snare the real criminal and spring their friend from jail. The wry, economical text works in seamless partnership with the stylized, one-of-a-kind watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations to move the zippy story line forward. The characters' singular personalities and intelligence shine in the quirky details of their clothing and the telling minutiae surrounding them in their homes (not a computer screen in sight but plenty of games, microscopes, and measuring devices). The Dunderheads might be "half-pint hooligans" or underestimated budding geniuses, but either way young readers will surely line up in droves for this winning gang's latest adventure.-Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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