The Terrible Two Get Worse: The Terrible Two, Book 2

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
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Smart sequel serves up giggles with heartfelt touches.

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

Educational Value

Explanations of Chekhov's gun and Occam's razor, discussion of propaganda and samizdat in the U.S.S.R., references to classical music, poet Alexei Khvostenko, and eschaton and Armageddon.

Positive Messages

Actions can have unintended consequences, and trying to make things right is the responsible thing to do. When it comes to practical jokes, the distinction between "target" and "victim" is pretty thin. Life without a sense of humor can be pretty miserable. Emphasis on collaboration and being part of a larger community.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Niles and Miles feel badly for contributing to the principal's dismissal and own up to violating the prankster's oath. They strive to follow a code of conduct that calls for them to "disrupt, but not destroy; to embarrass the dour and amuse the merry ... [and] to prove the world looks better turned upside down." Their pranks require extensive knowledge and planning. Miles is worried for his friend's well-being. One educator is engaged and invested in her students, but other adults (including parents) are distant at best and villainous at worst.

Violence & Scariness

Mild insults, including "twerp" and "toady."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Terrible Two Get Worse: The Terrible Two, Book 2 is a smart and funny take on the power imbalance between kids and adults, lampooning busy grown-ups who pride themselves on power for its own sake. This sequel to The Terrible Two -- by authors Mac Barnett (Extra Yarn) and Jory John, with illustrator Kevin Cornell (Count the Monkeys) -- is sympathetic to the hapless target of the duo's elaborate pranks. The boys are in this just for fun, and they're dismayed when their childish fun has serious consequences. An authority figure deals severely with subordinates and plays favorites. A bully gets permission to steal money from a fundraiser. A villain gets his comeuppance with public humiliation.

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What's the story?

Miles and Niles are having a terrific fall, enlivening Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy with nearly daily pranks. But they go too far when they leave their mark on the annual school-wide photo and their frequent target, Principal Barkin, is fired. The boys feel bad, and they feel even worse when they realize the new principal -- Principal Barkin's father – is an even more powerful foe. This Principal Barkin makes school miserable for everyone except his grandson, Josh, whose bullying now goes unchecked. Miles and Niles feel responsible for everything that's happened. One good prank could set things right ... and to pull it off, they'll need to team up with a most unlikely ally.

Is it any good?

When a joke goes too far, the victim isn't the only one who suffers -- the Terrible Two must wrestle with their consciences in this lively sequel that pulls off sensitivity and slapstick humor. In THE TERRIBLE TWO GET WORSE: THE TERRIBLE TWO, BOOK 2, laughter proves to be the best revenge. The hilarity of the first book continues here, and as before, much of it surrounds Principal Barkin: Forced out of his job by his own dad, he ineptly pursues new hobbies such as making hand turkeys and soap -- each failed effort depicted with wonderful full-page illustrations by Kevin Cornell.

The tensions between adults and children are the core of the story, from the burden placed on the fifth Barkin serving as principal to Niles' disappointment with his parents' lack of interest in his accomplishments. There's thoughtful stuff here -- particularly themes of despotism and dissent -- but it's presented with a wink and a smile.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the principal's approach to shutting down pranks. Do you find it helps to ignore annoying behavior by other kids?

  • How does The Terrible Two Get Worse compare with other books you've read that present teachers, principals, and other adults as ridiculous figures? What makes these stories so fun to read?

  • How can you tell when a joke has gone too far?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor and school stories

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