The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book 1



Wisecracking narrator hogs spotlight in funny twins tale.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Being the story of a genius inventor and his family, lots of interesting and potentially useful knowledge gets passed along amid the silliness. As things progress, there's no telling what bit of esoteric information will turn out to be useful -- about clocks, drumming, crossword puzzles, hot-wiring cars, any number of design and engineering facts -- which is a lesson in itself.

Positive messages

A positive message in how well the twins collaborate and how their different skills and interests come into play to save the day. The treatment of the family's recovery from bereavement is somewhat uneven in tone -- the narrator alternately lectures on the recovery process, dismisses the whole issue with a wisecrack, or creates character developments that may or may not make sense -- which some may find off-putting, especially if they've recently dealt with their own loss.

Positive role models

The plucky, resourceful twins and their devoted, if absent-minded, papa are positive influences both in their bond with one another and their ingenuity in absorbing off-the-wall knowledge and turning it to good use. Professor Templeton's professional ethics are also topnotch. The narrator will be hugely entertaining to some kids, especially budding comedians who may rush to copy his attitude and use his material. Some of the twins' actions are in the kids-don't-try-this-at-home category, as when one of them hides in the trunk of the villains' car.


Violence here is cartoonish, but there's a fair amount of it: Not only are the twins kidnapped and held captive by the evil Dean twins, but another character is apparently killed in the process of the abduction. The villains fire a gun on more than one occasion, and one character falls from a flying machine and breaks his leg.

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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book 1 is the first entry in a series by humor writer Ellis Weiner, and is longer on comic hyperactivity than character or plot development. For some kids, this will be a huge plus and keep them turning the pages in search of the next wisecrack or insult. The snarky narrator completely overshadows the cast of characters, who range from the appealing to the bizarre in a wild, cartoonish plot that involves kidnapping, apparent murder, and other mayhem before the twins cleverly save the day. As the book begins, the twins and their father are still coping with the death of the twins' mother. At the beginning, the narrator is occasionally a little flip about this, which some may find off-putting, especially if they've recently dealt with their own loss. But ultimately, grief is a poignant element in the story that affects decisions the family makes -- including getting a cute, energetic dog the narrator constantly refers to as "ridiculous."

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What's the story?

THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA: BOOK 1 finds 12-year-old twins Abigail and John Templeton, whose mom has recently died, starting to get their lives back on track while their father, a brilliant inventor, remains lost in grief. In short order, they acquire Cassie the fox terrier, move to a new college campus for Professor Templeton's work, and are kidnapped by the villainous Dean D. Dean, the only student the professor ever flunked. Creative thinking, teamwork, Cassie's quirks, and the twins' hobbies (his is drumming, hers is cryptic crossword puzzles) all play a role in the resulting antics.

Is it any good?


Snarky, sarcastic, attention-hogging narrators are the norm for writer Ellis Weiner, so if you're looking for a story with actual character development and substantive plot, this isn't for you. But if you're prepared for the fact that the Templeton Twins are completely eclipsed by a wisecracking, whining, self-aggrandizing storyteller who doles out bits of the plot with hefty doses of wordplay, snide remarks, comic "quizzes" at the end of each chapter, a recipe for meat loaf, and helpful lectures on subjects from crossword puzzles to hot-wiring cars, The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book 1 is an irresistible series start.

Kids who love the barrage of knowledge and wit in The Phantom Tollbooth are good candidates for this one. Humorous graphic elements on most pages and lots of intricate drawings by award-winning illustrator Jeremy Holmes, in which Edward Gorey meets Rube Goldberg, add to the fun.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it's like to have the narrator play such a big role in a book. When the narrator says this story is for kids who are smart, clever, and funny, just like the twins, what does that tell you about the narrator and what he's trying to do?

  • John and Abigail are very close but have completely different interests. How does this come out in the story, and why is it a good thing?

  • Do you think Professor Templeton did the right thing to flunk Dean D. Dean, which set the story's fateful events in motion?

Book details

Author:Ellis Weiner
Illustrator:Jeremy Holmes
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Publication date:August 15, 2012
Number of pages:232
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Available on:Hardback

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