Review of “The Terrible Two”, Mac Barnett and Jory John, Childrens Books Ireland December 2015

This review was to a large degree dictated by my seven year old daughter. I have always thought that grown up reviewers (especially film reviewers who evidently would be preferred to be watching some worthy drama or other) covering works for children is a little absurd. I disliked this but my daughter still sometimes asks for it (and appreciated the tablet/tablets wordplay, it seems)  I myself am far from immune from the tendency of adults to project their own desires and values onto what they want their children to read, watch and listen to.



Miles has had to move from the school by the sea he loved and where he was the acknowledged master prankster, to Yawnee Valley (most famous for cows) and a new school where he knows no one. In this new school he soon realises that an anonymous, brilliant prank mastermind already occupies his former position. But who is it? Bullied by the principal’s son, and forced into a stilted principal-assigned friendship with the quiet, officious Niles, Miles tries to conceive of a perfect prank to seize the school prankster title, but it is foiled and then an unexpected revelation leads to the creation of the Terrible Two.

Initially rivals engaged in a prank war between themselves, when they join forces the Terrible Two pledge  to ‘to disrupt, but not destroy; to embarrass the dour and amuse the merry.’ Together, they extend their pranking career to new heights.

Full of witty details such as inordinate amount of facts about cows, the five generations of Principal Barkinses, the ‘Prank Lab’, and the elaborately hilarious pranks themselves, the book will appeal to fans of the Wimpy Kid series but with an added helping of antic silliness. The illustrations by Kevin Cornell are perfectly in tune with the text and add an extra layer of fun.

The pranks are humorous and wildly over-the-top rather than cruel, and while never moralistic, lessons can indeed be drawn about friendship and teamwork. However, this is mainly a hugely entertaining opening to what promises to be a highly popular series.

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