Monday, September 28, 2015

The Terrible Two, by Jory John and Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Staff review by Chris Saliba

In this terrifically fun book, two school pranksters use their talents to outwit the school bully.

In Salvador Dali’s mercurial autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, there’s a section where he outlines the most extraordinary idea for a prank. It’s his dream to cause havoc and mayhem on the continent of Europe. This is the plan: he will strategically place a huge bread roll in every major European city, at culturally important locations. Then week after week, he will replace these huge bread rolls with even bigger rolls. Eventually these disconcerting bread rolls will reach gargantuan proportions, threatening to overwhelm cities. Panic sets in and mayhem follows. All of Europe is terrorised by out of control bread rolls.

In much the same vein, the two school pranksters in The Terrible Two, Miles Murphy and Niles Sparks, go about their mischievious work.

Miles Murphy has moved to Yawnee Valley. It’s a cow town, full of dairy farms (the town’s welcoming sign says “Come Look at Our Cows”). Cows delightfully moo away at all hours in the background. When Miles starts at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, he thinks he’ll lead the way as the school’s top prankster. But he has a rival, a secret agent prankster that no one knows about.

On day one Miles is alerted to this fact when someone parks Principal Barkin’s car in the entrance of the school, thereby blocking everyone’s entrance. Principal Barkin is the ogre of the story. He comes from a long line of Barkins who have been school principals. There is also Barkin’s son, Josh, who is the school bully and class president (he calls everyone “nimbus”). Because his father is principal, the election of class president is always rigged. The blowsy student Holly Rash always puts her name forward to challenge Josh for class president in the name of democracy, even though she knows she’ll lose.

After being outsmarted by the school’s mysterious master prankster on several occasions, Miles finds out who he is: Niles Sparks, the impossibly perfect goody two shoes who wears a sash that says “School Helper”. Niles appears to kiss up to everyone in sight, but this is his way of making sure no one suspects him of being the school’s top prankster.

Miles and Niles team up to pull off the master of all pranks, bringing down principal Barkin and his son Josh in a series of clever moves. School democracy is restored and Holly Rash can run for school president in a fair race.

The Terrible Two is loads of fun. The illustrations by Kevin Cornell recall the zaniest moments of Mad Magazine and are good value just in themselves. Jory John and Mac Barnett keep the text chugging along with enough madcap doings to make this book a fun caper where the bad get their just deserts and the pranksters win the day.

For ages 9 - 12 years old. 

The Terrible Two, by Jory John and Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Published by Abrams. ISBN: 9781419714917 RRP: $17.99

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