Thursday, March 31, 2016

North Melbourne Books April Newsletter - featuring Mac Barnett

In the April edition of the North Melbourne Books Newsletter we talk to children's author Mac Barnett. He is the co-author, with Jory John, of the hilariously funny The Terrible Two books.

In this brilliant follow-up, The Terrible Two Get Worse sees serial pranksters Miles Murphy and Niles Sparks plot some of their most daring pranks to date. But when they target Principal Barry Barkin, there is an unexpected outcome. With great dialogue, inventive set pieces and brilliant characters that you’ll love, The Terrible Two Get Worse only gets better.


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North Melbourne Books Talks to Mac Barnett


 Author photo by Sonya Sones

North Melbourne Books: In The Terrible Two and The Terrible Two Get Worse we meet serial pranksters Miles Murphy and Niles Sparks. While they cause much mayhem at their school, Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, they only use their pranking prowess to fight bullies and injustice. How did the idea for the story come to you?

Mac Barnett: Most of being a writer is sitting around at your house, not writing. My friend Jory John is a writer too, and once a week he'd come over to my place, and we'd sit there not writing together. We talked about books we were working on, books we were reading, and books we'd loved as kids. It turned out we both grew up on books about pranksters. I loved all of Dahl and especially Matilda. Jory was a big fan of the great brain series. And so pretty soon he was coming over and we were actually getting some writing done, working together on a book about a pair of pranksters.

NMB: Niles Sparks is an especially fun character. He’s a nerdy kiss-up to teachers, every ready to be helpful, and even goes so far as to wear a sash that reads “School Helper”. But this is all a cover for his secret pranking activities. Did you ever want to be like Niles when you were at school, leading this type of delicious double life?


MB: I sort of did, accidentally. For years I was too scared to pull a prank at school, but I was always planning them. Eventually I earned a reputation for good behavior, and so when I broke bad, nobody suspected me.

NMB: There are some truly amazing pranks in The Terrible Two books. Do you have a secret pranking lab at home where you road test the pranks for authenticity and guaranteed laughs? Where do all the ideas for the pranks come from?


MB: Pranksters spend a lot of time thinking about their targets: they know their habits, their blind spots, their greatest hopes and their darkest fears. Novelists know the same stuff about their characters. We spend a lot of time thinking about the people who live inside our books, and then we figure out how to embarrass them.

NMB: It has to be asked. Did you ever pull pranks yourself at school? Confess!


MB: The prank that ends The Terrible Two did actually happen at my high school. But nobody knows who did it. Or at least nobody is saying.

NMB: What books are you enjoying reading at the moment?


MB: I just finished The Known World by Edward P. Jones, one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I'm about to start An Imaginary Life by David Malouf—honest, I'm not just kissing up to you Australians! And I'm in the middle of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, research for The Terrible Two 3.

The Terrible Two Get Worse, by Jory John and Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Published by Abrams. RRP: $14.99