The Terrible Two, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Terrible Two, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Zany fun, great writing in smart prankster tale with heart.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Packed with facts about cows, the hanging gardens of Babylon, and the biblical plagues in Egypt. Other references include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Louise Fitzhugh, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Bach.


Positive Messages

Miles and Niles' pranks are intended to be funny and disruptive -- they "borrow" more than 100 cows and cause mayhem -- but they abide by a code of ethics that focuses on mirth, not malice: "to disrupt, but not destroy; to embarrass the dour and amuse the merry." Careful planning, observation, and research are essential to their work. By working together, they help teach each other and attain new heights.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite Miles' initial hostility, Niles is admiring and friendly. The pair ultimately work well together -- albeit for mischievous purposes -- and abide by a code of ethics that aims for humor without causing harm. Authority figures at school are cartoonishly silly. Parents are minimally present, though one shows considerable concern over bullying.


Violence & Scariness

School bully punches classmate and has history of nasty behavior, including forcing a kid to swallow rocks. Kid gets hit in the face with a pie.



What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Terrible Two is a terrific collaboration from Mac Barnett (Extra Yarn), Jory John (All My Friends Are Dead), and Kevin Cornell (Count the Monkeys). No need to worry about aspiring pranksters getting too many ideas: Not only are the pranks absurdly over the top, but also the boys hew to a code of conduct that rejects doing any real damage. They do maintain, however, that their targets "have it coming," and they don't face consequences (other than Miles' mortification when he's upstaged). The poor principal is wonderfully absurd in his ambition and logic, with a few sympathetic notes.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKate S. March 27, 2018

The Terrible Two

We read this book in Room 9 at Richmond School.
"It was a great book." Felix
"It is funny and entertaining." Chloe
"I sugg... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 22, 2015

A Friend Let Me Borrow This Book

I don't usually read books intended for my age range, (reasons for this are complicated) but this book is simply amazing and I would like to thank my frien... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycolemanko September 10, 2018

Great book!

I think that this book was really good and I love these types of books, I would totally recommend this to people who like funny books to read in their free time...

What's the story?

Miles is miserable about moving to Yawnee Valley, remarkable only for its enthusiasm for cows. Miles was the best prankster ever at his old school, and he aims to be the best one at his new school. But as soon as he sees the principal's car at the top of the stairs, blocking the school entrance, it immediately becomes clear this school already has a prankster -- a very, very good one. Miles sets out to make a name for himself, but his rival thwarts him at every turn. Making matters worse, purple-faced Principal Barkin blames Miles for the other prankster's mischief, and the principal's son decides Miles is a great target for bullying. Soon Miles has a choice: Team up with his adversary, or try to go it alone.

Is it any good?

THE TERRIBLE TWO is an uproariously funny start to a new series for middle-grade readers. Miles and Niles are geeky heroes for the overlooked, underestimated, and pigeonholed, approaching their prank projects with admirable righteousness and professional pride. Everything about this book is over the top, from the 1,346 interesting things you may or may not know about cows to the great Cody Burr-Tyler prank and the five generations of Principal Barkins.

Beneath the hilarity, however, is a tender streak: a new kid who wants to fit in, a misfit who opts to make the most of his outsider role, and an authority figure both inspired and burdened by family expectations. Working seamlessly together, Mac Barnett and Jory John write with dry humor and insight into the world of schoolchildren. The pranks are inspired and genuinely fun (and not easy to replicate at home). Kevin Cornell's energetic illustrations are fabulous, particularly when they feature the balding, sharp-nosed, power-crazed principal.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ethics behind Miles and Niles' pranks. Are they troublemakers, or are their pranks all in good fun?


  • The Terrible Two promise "to disrupt, but not destroy": Is that a meaningful distinction?


  • Have you ever pulled off a good prank? Are there any notorious pranksters in your family?


Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor

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