The Dunderheads

Common Sense Media says

Teamwork trumps an evil teacher; too scary for preschoolers.

Age(i)

2
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9
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The message is a bit complicated. The domineering teacher is a tyrant in the classroom, but the kids work together to help one of their classmates who has been her victim. Each eccentric kid offers his or her own talent to help the team succeed.

Positive role models

The teacher is definitely not a role model, and gives teachers a bad name, even if the portrayal is meant to be over-the-top and humorous. The kids are clever and smart, and work together to conquer their bullying teacher.

Violence & scariness

Nothing really violent happens, but the teacher is domineering and mean, guard dogs threaten with very sharp pointy teeth, and an electric chair is part of the classroom furniture.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

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 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

The teacher thinks she has a classroom full of misfits. The students know they have a tyrant for a teacher. When she makes one mistake too many, the kids all pool their individual talents to help fix the problem and show the teacher that a bunch of "dunderheads" can be successful.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Older kids will love this story about how a motley group of students pool their unique talents to finally overcome their domineering, evil teacher. The aptly-named Miss Breakbone is not someone to tangle with, and she has "no eye for talent," and gives herself a gold star every time she makes a student cry.  Of course, each of her students, whom she has labeled as "dunderheads" has a talent, of sorts:  Einstein is the brain, Pencil can draw from memory, Clips builds amazing things with paper clips, and so on. Together they are more than a match for Miss Breakbone's evil maneuverings.

Not only is the story rewarding, in that the innocent underdogs conquer the bully, but the writing is also entertaining and the artwork is packed with intriguing detail that will capture any reader's interest. However, because of the creepy and effectively evil illustrations, the electric chair, the growling ferocious dogs, the spikes and chains, and the less-than-favorable impression of teachers, this book is best for less sensitive readers.  

The watercolor, pen, and ink cartooning is unique and expressive. The mean, domineering teacher is creepy, scary, and very evil-looking. The kids each have unique style, and the gadgets are intriguing. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Miss Breakbone. How did the artist draw her, and why do you think he made her so big, angular, and ugly? Look especially at her mouth. What kind of look would you say she has?

  • How many mistakes did Miss Breakbone make? Which one finally pushed the kids into action? How would you have felt if you were Junkyard? Are teachers really ever this mean?

  • How did each kid get his nickname?  What would your nickname be if

  • you could choose one? Why? What does it show about you?

  • How did teamwork help the kids get the best of Miss Breakbone? Have you

  • ever worked together with your friends to make something right?

Book details

Author:Paul Fleischman
Illustrator:David Roberts
Genre:Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:June 9, 2009
Number of pages:56
Publisher's recommended age(s):6 - 10
Read aloud:6
Read alone:8

This review of The Dunderheads was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 5 and 7 year old Written byprotectivemama December 15, 2009
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

Great book

My 7 year old loved it! I emphasized the strengths of each kid and she took great interest in the illustrations, concentrating on the details.

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