Today’s tween book review is two for the price of one!
First up, The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman
What’s the best way to outsmart a horrible teacher? Work together, of course! The Dunderheads are a group of kids that use their unique talents to their advantage. After Miss Breakbone (think of a cartoon version of Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda) steals a small cat figurine that Junkyard (a boy who has a talent for finding hidden gems while rummaging through garbage cans) wanted to give to his mother.
Einstein (known for his quick thinking and problem solving skills) rounds up a group of kids to recover the stolen item. Each kid lends his/her quirk to help complete the mission. In the end, the team accomplishes something together that would have been impossible to do alone.
In the sequel, The Dunderheads Behind Bars, the gang is back for another adventure. This time one of their own (Spider, known for his climbing ability) has been wrongly accused of a crime and thrown in jail! The team must work together to convince the authorities that they have the wrong man and to try to figure out who actually committed the crime.
These books are fantastic for reluctant readers because each page features large, detailed illustrations. These kids are dealing with big problems and solving mysteries without the help of parents (or even older siblings). Young readers will love the fact that these eccentric “outsider” kids are the stars of the show and have what it takes to make a real difference. The wonderful portrayal of the Dunderheads’ offbeat skills will help kids realize that all talents (mainstream or not) are to be celebrated.
Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines