Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

From Amazon:
Miss Breakbone hates kids. Especially the time-squandering, mindwandering, doodling, dozing dunderheads in her class. But when she confiscates Junkyard’s crucial fi nd, she fi nally goes too far. Enter Wheels (and his souped-up bike with forty-eight extra gears), Pencil (who can draw anything from memory), Spider (look up and you’ll fi nd him), and their fellow misfi ts in a spectacular display of teamwork aimed at teaching Miss Breakbone a lesson she won’t soon forget. From the incomparable Paul Fleischman comes a winning cast of underdogs — and one of the most terrifying teachers you’ll ever meet — brought to vivid life in David Roberts’s quirky, hilarious illustrations.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s classified as a picture book at my library, which it is, I suppose, but it has a really great story. It feels more like a novel, a short novel with lots of pictures (a graphic novel, if you will?) The evil teacher (who starts off the book by yelling at the children, so you know she's evil - even if the name Miss Breakbone didn't tip it off) confiscates a boy’s toy cat – it was supposed to be a gift to his mother, and now he has nothing to give her. So the rest of the students, rallied by one called Einstein, all work together to get it back. It’s a little bit like The Mysterious Benedict Society meets late-90s Saturday morning cartoons, but it makes for a fun book. The small details in the illustrations had me wanting more; they even made me wonder a bit about the teacher’s life (I have a feeling it would be a fascinating story) while still firmly rooting for the children.

Pair it with:
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Miss Nelson is Missing

I got this book: from my library

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

From Amazon: Michael and his friends Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks—they’re from the wrong side of everything. Except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher, no one at their high school takes them seriously. Haberman calls them “gentlemen,” but everyone else ignores them—or, in Bones’s case, is dead afraid of them. When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman. Gritty, fast-paced, and brutally real, this debut novel takes an unflinching look at what binds friends together—and what can tear them apart.

I will freely admit that I was intrigued by this one primarily because of the cover (that’s not a hoodie). And because of an enthusiastic review from Bookshelves of Doom, one of my favourite YA book blogs.


Mike is in high school, mostly the remedial classes, and he doesn’t really care. Then one day Tommy, one of his friends is pushed to a breaking point in math class, flips his desk upside down, and is hauled away to the principal’s office. That’s the last time Mike (or his other friends, Mixer and Bones) see Tommy that day. Or the next day. Or the next. When the police get involved, they start thinking that maybe they might know what has happened to Tommy…or do they? This is a perfect book for a reader who likes to guess the plot before it happens (or maybe it’s a terrible choice for that reader - it could drive them crazy) because the whole book is about piecing together clues and trying to pick up on bits of evidence. Crime and Punishment is also featured. I think the book might have worked better as a short story, but at just over 234 pages it doesn’t read like a very big book anyway.

Read with:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Killing Mr. Griffen by Lois Duncan
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I got the book from: my library