Book Reviews, Boys, Humor, Middle Grades
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The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

A fifth-grade prankster meets his match, joining forces with his rival to pull off the greatest fifth-grade prank of all time.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John.  Amulet, 2015, 217 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-12, especially boys

Miles Murphy, age 11, is not happy about moving to Yawnee Vally and attending its “Science and Letters” Academy.  Back home he was the prank king—now he has to start all over building that rep.  But it turns out that Yawnee Valley already has a prank king, who is 2) the last person Miles would expect and 2) possibly a superior prankster.  Can Miles overcome his isolationist past and join forces with Niles to become the Terrible Two?  And what about all those cows?

This new-ish series (The Terrible Two Get Worse is already out) continues in the Captain Underpants tradition of making the principal a figure of ridicule.  Parents who have a problem with this—and I have a problem with it, truth be told—should be warned or plan to have a talk with their prospective readers about legitimate authority.  Otherwise it’s good clean fun and often quite funny.  Pranking is an interesting subject for discussion, too: what’s it all about?  Why are we drawn to pranksters (and their cousin, the good-natured con man)?  No need to go in-depth for a slight, laugh-out-loud read, but it might be worth some thought.

Also by Mac Barnett: the Brixton Brothers mysteries—I love these and wish he would write more!

Cautions: Character Issues (disrespect for authority)

Overall rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3
  • Artistic value: 3.5



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