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The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne Hardcover – June 14, 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Calma Harrison, the smart, sassy narrator of this memorable first novel by an Australian high school teacher, shares an unlikely friendship with class clown and ne'er-do-well Jaryd Kiffing, known as "Kiffo." Jonsberg reveals the source of their bond in flashbacks on tinted pages, which hint at something terrible happening to each of them four years before. The main narrative begins in Year 10 English class with Kiffo driving off the teacher in a hilarious (unless you are a teacher) opening scene. The replacement, naturally, is far worse. Miss Payne has the "sensitivity of a paving slab," and looks ferocious enough to "disembowel a horse with her teeth." "The Pitbull" instantly makes it plain she plans to "break [Kiffo's] spirit." Calma agrees to help Kiffo get rid of her with a vague strategy that involves stalking which, miraculously, actually raises suspicions she's connected with drug dealing. The plot moves briskly from one calamitous misstep by the would-be detectives to another, but the action outside the classroom often teeters on the brink of absurdity. The momentum stumbles, too, when the story climaxes with a turn that feels unnecessarily harsh. Jonsberg recovers (the final twist is tantalizingly ambiguous) and Calma's assured and mostly comical account is well-nigh irresistible. It's similar to her complaint about teachers who get going on the subject of attitude: "They're like a train with brake failure on a long slope. There's nothing you can do until they stop rolling." Ages 12-up. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-In this uneven Australian novel, high school student Calma Harrison and her friend Kiffo decide to get revenge on a much-hated English teacher. Calma is bright and a good student but struggles to get along with her hardworking, single mother, who is rarely home. Flashbacks explain why she has befriended the troubled boy with a mysterious past. The two begin spying on Miss Payne, and Kiffo even breaks into her house. The conversation he overhears prompts the teens to believe that she might be selling drugs. Their further investigations lead to trouble: Calma eventually has run-ins with a counselor, the principal, and the school police officer over her apparent stalking of the woman. A final, shocking incident leads to tragedy and revelations about Kiffo's past. The protagonist intersperses her story with writing assignments, horoscopes, letters, surveys, and imagined movie scenes that-while creative and laced with her trademark sarcastic humor-sometimes feel forced and overshadow the plot. Calma is an appealing character, and her wisecracking tone hides deep emotions. Still, some of the situations seem highly implausible, and Kiffo's character never feels fully developed.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375832408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375932403
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,760,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne by Barry Jonsberg is about two friends who learn that assumptions can do more harm than good. Within this book, the author used character very well. Each character was very distinct and wasn't just a one-dimensional plot device. Calma, the main character whose point of view the story was from, at first seemed to just be a smart aleck student who happened to be incredibly eloquent, but as the story went on, she developed a rather vulnerable side to her that also helped her become wiser. She began thinking her actions through a bit more as the consequences became more severe. There's also Kiffo, her friend and the other main character, who is first seemingly a defiant teenager from a bad part of town, but he too develops a softer side, even if only just so. Another thing the author did well was interesting dialogue. There were occasionally chapters of almost solid dialogue or simply notes Calma wrote to her mother and left on the fridge. They gave the reader a feeling of looking into the scene and watching what was happening, rather than being told a story by the narrator/Calma's point of view. It helped keep the story engaging and it also added a different dimension to the whole experience of reading it. Probably the best example of the author's writing style is on page 35 where Calma writes to her mom on a note, "In the meantime, my new English teacher, a charming woman of considerable charisma, has requested my presence at an after-school meeting tomorrow. Would you be so kind as to sign the attached permission slip?" (Jonsberg).Read more ›
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