The Terrible Two

Book: The Terrible Two
Author: Mac Barnett and Jory John
Illustrator: Kevin Cornell
Publisher: Amulet Books, to be published in 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1419714917
ISBN-10: 1419714910
Related website: (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Many publishers and/or authors provide copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion. Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Barnett, Mac and John, Jory. The Terrible Two (to be published in 2015 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams Inc., 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY 10011). Have you ever pulled a prank on someone? Miles Murphy is having to move with his mother, Judy Murphy, from his old apartment in a pink building that was close to the ocean and his best friends Carl and Ben, to start a new life in sleepy, boring Yawnee Valley, where Mrs. Murphy will work in the Post Office but the main feature is cows—as far as the eye can see. However, what Miles is most unhappy about is saying good-bye to his reputation as his school’s biggest prankster. He is now enrolled at the Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, where he meets the overbearing Principal, Mr. Barry Barkin, and his bullying son Josh, makes friends with Holly Rash, and is paired with Niles Sparks who is the Principal’s main helper. Maybe Miles can become the biggest prankster in his new school.

But wait! On the first day of school, someone parks the Principal’s car on the front steps blocking the entry way. So it appears that this school already has a prankster. Who is it? Will Miles be able to overcome him? Or will he outdo Miles? Prankster against prankster–who will win the pranking war? And how? There is really very little that is overtly objectionable in the book—just things like references to kids who’re allowed to see R-rated movies and cows that “farted.” Perhaps the most questionable element of a specific nature that I found was a statement, repeated a couple of times by Niles, that “sometimes it’s OK to do something wrong if it helps you to do something right.” Many of us might wonder if this is a message which we really want to resonate with our kids. It is certainly something that parents will need to discuss with their children if they read the book.

Also, some parents may not care for the way in which the pranksters, who flaunt authority, are presented as the heroes, whereas the ones in authority are pictured more as the bad guys, or at least in an undesirable light. This seems to be a growing theme in children’s literature today, and each family will have to make its own judgments on these kinds of decisions, but judged solely on the basis of the writing, plot design, and sustainability of interest, the book is not too bad. However, I will say that it doesn’t present anything of lasting value. It is purely a comic read, the middle grade literary equivalent of junk food. Twinkies are a nice treat once in a while, although I can’t have them any more because I’m a diabetic, but a steady diet of them would not be good and too many might even make one sick. Which brings me to my last point, and that is that this is apparently intended as the first of a series. So readers may look forward to more prank adventures of “The Terrible Two.” The book is due to be released on Jan. 13, 2015.

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