A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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