The Terrible Two

The Terrible Two

The Terrible Two
by Mac Barnett and Jory John

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview (Mac Barnett)

Illustrator Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Mac Barnett Homepage:

About Mac Barnett:

Why a good book is like a secret door with Mac Barnett (17:03) (scroll down):

About Jory John:

Watch, read, connect: Jory John:

Interview with Mac Barnett and Jory John:

Podcast with Jory John (55:27):

Illustrator Information:
Kevin Cornell homepage (scroll to bottom for info.)

Meaning of colors:
Dressing for success-colors:

Cow facts:
Cool cow facts:

Interesting facts about cows:

Fun cow facts for kids:

Kid’s corner facts about cows:

Weird and amazing cow facts:

Cool dairy cow facts:

Interesting and amazing information on cows:

It has been stated that if you placed all the cows from Yawnee Valley in a stack they would reach to the moon and back. How tall is the average cow? How far away is the moon? Using these two answers figure out how many cows are in Yawnee Valley.

Principal Barkin put together a brochure about cows. Create a brochure all about the one thing your town is most known for.

Create a cool cow facts brochure.

Cow fact #2 on page 35 says a dairy cow can produce more than 25 gallons of milk per day or 400 cups. How much milk will the cow produce in one week, month, year?

Cow Herding:
3 ways to herd cattle:

Calling the cows (:27):

Calling cows (4:04):

Herding cattle with a trombone (4:14):

Learn and practice cow calls. Have a cow calling contest.

Grilled cheese sandwich prank:

April Fool’s Day Food:

Pack a surprising lunch:

Breakfast pranks:

Fun food Friday:

April Fool’s more adult-like pranks:

33 Harmless Pesky Pranks:


Easy pranks for kids under 35:

Funny prank ideas for kids:

Party pranks:

Have a prank day contest.

Write your own Prankster’s Oath.

10 cool chirpy cricket facts:

Facts about crickets:

Bug facts-crickets:

Figure out how many crickets will fit in a standard shoe box. How much room does 2,000 crickets take up?

Create a catapult and have a contest to see who can launch something the farthest.

15 easy catapults to make with kids:

Plastic spoon catapult:

Tinker toy catapult:

Soda can catapult (7:33):

Craft stick catapult (2:19):

How to make a catapult with explanation of how it works (3:22):

Coin Trick:
Principal Barkin’s grandfather used to find a silver coin behind Barkin’s ear. Learn to perform this trick.

How to do the coin behind the ear trick:

How to do magic with a coin and an ear: Magic 101 (2:18):


Discussion Questions:

The Yawnee Valley citizens elected a cow as mayor twice. What does this tell you about the citizens? Since the cow was re-elected due to high ratings what does this tell you about the job of mayor?

Is it true a cow moos 100 times per day? Why do cows moo?

Miles has a scowl on his face as he rides to Yawnee Valley. Why do you think he keeps sighing? If moving meant a real house, a bigger room and a real yard and getting a fresh start would you want to move? Explain. Do you see moving as an adventure or as something to endure?

Miles names all the things he will miss. If you had to move what would you miss most? least? What would you look forward to?

Miles has the reputation as his school’s biggest prankster. What is your reputation? What is the one thing you are known for at your school? What would you like to be known for?

The air outside Miles’ old house smelled like the sea. His new one smelled like cows. What does it smell like outside your home?

Miles wants to skip a grade. Is this a good or bad idea? Why?

Miles asks his mother to have a project year. If you took a year off school to do a project what would your project be and why?

Referring to the first day of school Miles says, “Today was the day when you could decide to become a new kid and be that kid for the rest of your life.” Would you want to reinvent yourself or stay like you are now? What would you reinvent yourself as? Of all the types of kids listed on page 12 which do you relate to the most?

Miles thinks if he wasn’t the school prankster, he was nobody. Is this true? Is a person’s identity wrapped up completely in what they can do or is there more? Explain.

Principal Barkin wears a red tie as he says red conveyed absolute power. Should we choose our clothes for power or a different reason?

Principal Barkin tells Miles he should change his name and when Miles says he doesn’t want to the principal says he has a little mouth on him. Is Principal Barkin a bully? Explain.

Principal Barkin gives Miles a booklet called, 1,346 interesting things you may or may not know about cows. What do you find interesting about cows?

Yawnee Valley is known for cows. What is your town known for?

The principal asked Niles to be Miles’ buddy to show him the ropes. Miles describes him as the kiss up, do-gooder and school snitch. Have you ever been able to size someone up in one glance? Were you right in your opinion? Explain.

Fact #3 on page 35 states cows have 360 degree panoramic vision. If you had this kind of vision what types of jobs could be done easier? How does this type of vision help a cow survive?

Niles tells Principal Barkin, Miles was the one who moved his car. What does this tell you about Niles?

Niles says sometimes it’s OK to do something wrong if it helps you do something right. Do you agree with this statement? Explain.

When Niles tells Miles, there’s Ms. Shandy’s desk, Miles says, is this the door knob. Why does he say this? What is sarcasm and why is it used?

In class Niles says, this is Holly Rash. She’s sitting next to you. Niles keeps stating the obvious. What would you do if you were Miles to shut him up or would you? Why?

Josh says his dad tells him to be decisive, to make a decision and then stick with it no matter what. Is this good advice? Explain.

When Ms. Shandy has Josh change seats, Josh says he’s going to tell his dad. What is Josh trying to do and why? If you were Ms. Shandy what would you do?

When Josh threatens to beat up MIles, Miles dumps his own tray on himself and blames Josh. Niles backs him up. Why do you think Miles did this? Was it a smart move? Explain.

Miles’ mother asks him about his first day at school. Do all parents ask about school at dinner and if so what do you do to deflect the question? Do you give an honest answer or just say fine? Why?

Miles makes up a fake person to throw a birthday party for. The students pretend they know the fake person. Why do the students pretend they know someone they clearly don’t know? Have you ever done this? Why?

Miles only gives out 10 invitation knowing that those students will invite others. Is it wrong to bring people who were not invited to a party? Would you? Explain.

Holly doesn’t bring a gift to the party. She says she’s not going to give a present to a guy she doesn’t know. What do you think about this? Would you? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to give a gift to someone you don’t know? Holly is the only one who admits she doesn’t know the birthday boy. What does this tell you about Holly?

Miles wrote a speech thanking everyone for the presents. If you were Miles would you have taken the presents? What would the consequences have been?

Why does Principal Barkin crash the party and lie about knowing Cody Burr-Tyler?

Niles leaves a rubber chicken with a message on it for Miles. How did Niles know Miles would open it and why do you think Niles sent it letting Miles know Niles was a prankster?

If no one knows you pulled a prank is it still fun?

Niles says pranking everybody is like pranking nobody. How so?

Niles says a prankster doesn’t prank for the fame. He pranks for the prank. Explain.

Niles says the victim you pull the prank on must deserve it. Why? What would happen if you pranked people who did not deserve it?

How did Niles know the party was a prank and that Miles did it?

Miles came up with a plague of locusts excuse for why he had the crickets. What does this tell you about Miles?

So far, who is the better prankster and why?

What is scarier: waiting for a prank to come or being pranked? Why? Why does Niles do nothing for weeks but give Miles huge smiles like he’s up to something? If you were Niles would you do a real prank or continue to torment Miles with smiles? Why?

Miles tricks Stuart into switching lockers with him. Is it okay to be dishonest to get what you want?

Principal Barkin says a principal’s authority must be absolute. Explain.

Niles pranks have 2 parts – making a double prank. Why is a double prank better?

Niles and Miles are visionaries. What is a visionary and are you one?

Niles gives Miles a rubber chicken with a phone code on it. Why does Niles use codes?

Niles and Miles attempt to think up a prank that will cancel school. Can you think up one that is funny and not mean?

Nile’s parent paid for the tree house materials because Niles pitched it as an engineering project. Have you ever persuaded your parents to buy something by saying it was educational? If so what was it?

Miles is the first person Niles has ever brought home. What does this say about Niles? about Miles?

Why does Niles give Miles a school helper sash?

Who do you think is the real Niles, the boy we meet at the beginning of the book or the one at the end?

Book Talk Teasers:

Show video of man herding cattle with trombone.

Read pages 9 – 14. (car on the steps)

Tell some interesting cow facts.

Read Alikes:

Realistic fiction, funny:
Yoo, David. The detention club. Brand-new sixth-graders Peter and Drew were popular in elementary school — really, they were. But as they soon discover (somewhat painfully), middle school changes everything. Struggling with bullies and bad luck at every turn, the two friends try a series of schemes that they’re sure will put them back on top, all of which fail. Then it happens: a stint in detention becomes an unlikely opportunity to win friends and influence people. With a tantalizing mystery subplot and lots of hilarious middle-school mishaps, The Detention Club is a fast-paced, fun read. (NoveList)

Illustrated books, realistic fiction, gross tone:
Tatulli, Mark. Desmond Pucket makes monster magic. Harboring an ambition to become a special-effects wizard, mischievous sixth-grader Desmond Pucket raises the ire of his school’s disciplinary officer with endless pranks and is warned to cease all misbehavior or be banned from a highly anticipated class trip to an amusement park. (NoveList)

Realistic fiction, funny, attention-grabbing:
Rodkey, Geoff. The Tapper Twins go to war (with each other). An oral history that reports, through transcribed recordings, text messages, photographs, illustrations, screenshots, and more, an epic prank war between twelve-year-old twins Reese and Claudia Tapper of New York City. (NoveList)

Realistic fiction, culturally diverse, mischievous, funny:
Baker, Kimberly. PICKLE: The formerly anonymous prank club of Fountain Point Middle School. Using a bogus name, the League of Picklemakers, sixth-grader Ben and three recruits start a prank-pulling club and receive funding from their middle school’s PTA. (NoveList)

Epistolary, humorous, mystery, plot-driven, funny:
Mack, Jeff. Clueless McGee. Through a series of letters to his father, a private investigator, fifth-grader PJ “Clueless” McGee tells of his efforts to discover who stole macaroni and cheese from the school cafeteria. (NoveList)

Books to movies; diary novels; first person narratives; humorous stories; illustrated books; realistic fiction, awkward, relatable, sarcastic, character-driven, funny:
Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a wimpy kid: Greg Heffley’s journal. Greg records his sixth grade experiences in a middle school where he and his best friend, Rowley, undersized weaklings amid boys who need to shave twice daily, hope just to survive, but when Rowley grows more popular, Greg must take drastic measures to save their friendship. (NoveList)

First person narrative, humorous, realistic fiction, mischievous, funny:
Pierce, Lincoln. Big Nate lives it up. As his school’s centennial is coming up, Big Nate is stuck showing the dorky new kid around. (NoveList)

Humorous, realistic fiction, spirited, character-driven, funny, upbeat, attention-grabbing, conversational:
Cabot, Meg. The new girl. Guided by her rules, nine-year-old Allie works to get past being just the new girl at school, eagerly awaits the arrival of her kitten, and faces turmoil when her grandmother visits while the family is still settling into their new home. (NoveList)

Early chapter books, humorous, funny, gross, silly:
Benton, Jim. Lunch walks among us. Franny K. Stein is a mad scientist who prefers all things spooky and creepy, but when she has trouble making friends at her new school she experiments with fitting in–which works until a monster erupts from the trash can. (NoveList)

Funny, fast-paced, feel-good:
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. The boys start the war. Disgusted that a family with three girls moves into the house across the river, nine-year-old Wally and his three brothers declare a practical joke war on the girls. (NoveList)

Mystery, boy detectives, funny:
Monson, A.M. The secret of Sanctuary Island. While still becoming accustomed to his father’s remarriage, thirteen-year-old Todd and a friend set out to prove they observed a burglary no one believes happened, but end up exposing a vacation scam instead. (NoveList)

Plot-driven, fast-paced, mystery, first person narrative:
Saldana, Rene. The lemon tree caper: a Mickey Rangel mystery. When his scary neighbor, Senorita Andrade, finds all the lemons from her prize-winning lemon tree missing one day, Mickey Rangel vows to determine what happened. (NoveList)

Mystery, plot-driven:
Dahl, Michael. The thirteenth mystery. Abracadabra, owner of the Abracadabra Hotel, has disappeared, and Charlie Hitchcock and Tyler Yu team up again to solve the mystery of the hidden thirteenth floor and try to foil a theft that could cost the hotel millions. (NoveList)

Christian, Mary Blount. Sebastian (Super Sleuth) and the copycat rime. While speaking at a crime writers conference, bumbling detective John Quincy Jones is aided by his capable canine in solving the mystery of two missing manuscripts. (NoveList)

Humorous stories, silly, cartoony:
Elliott, David. Wuv bunnies from outers pace. Two large rabbits from a galaxy called Outers Pace enlist the aid of Hercules Smith in saving the children of his town from being turned into carrots by the sinister B3 and his Funny Bunny henchrabbits. (NoveList)

Fantasy comics, graphic novels, moving, offbeat:
Schwarz, Vivian. The sleepwalkers. The retiring Sleepwalkers, guardians against nightmares, train three intrepid recruits to take their places, an effort that pits the young heroes against daunting dream hazards. (NoveList)

Humorous stories, new students and schools:
Daneshvari, Gitty. Ghoulfriends forever. Rochelle Goyle, Venus McFlytrap, and Robecca Steam become friends at Monster High and uncover a plot to take over the school that involves the new teacher, Miss Flapper. (NoveList)

Starkey, Scott. How to beat the bully without really trying. Rodney, an admitted coward, moves to Ohio where the middle school bully immediately singles him out, but when a stray baseball knocks the bully out just as he is about to beat Rodney up, Rodney gains an undeserved reputation as a tough guy. (NoveList)

Humorous stories and practical jokers:
Danziger, Paula. Make like a tree and leave. Sixth-grader Matthew gets into trouble at home and at school, spars with his older sister, and helps save an elderly friend’s property from the hands of a developer. (NoveList)

Krulik, Nancy E. Super burp! When fourth-grader George starts at a new school, he vows to become a model student instead of the class clown he has always been, but just as his plan is going really well, he is overtaken by a magic burp that turns him back into a mischief-maker. (NoveList)

Book Reviews:

The Terrible Two.
By Mac Barnett and Jory John. Illus. by Kevin Cornell.
2015. 224p. Abrams/Amulet, $13.95 (9781419714917). Gr. 4–6.
First published January 1, 2015 (Booklist).

Miles Murphy isn’t happy about moving to small Yawnee Valley (Welcome sign: “Come look at our cows”) or leaving his friends, but he is determined to be Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy’s number one prankster, the title he proudly held at his old school. He is facing serious competition, however, when an anonymous—and, Miles admits, inspired—trickster delays the first day of school by somehow blocking the school’s entryway with the principal’s car. Worse, aptly named Principal Barkin blames Miles and pairs him with goody-two-shoes Niles Sparks; then he is targeted by bully Josh. Undaunted, Miles focuses on achieving premiere prankster status, but he is continually thwarted. Thus begins a rivalry of pranking one-upmanship, but perhaps an alliance is better—and ultimately rewarding in multiple ways. With plenty of humor, quirky characters, interspersed drolly related cow factoids, and fantastical, over-the-top pranking, this entertaining, enjoyable read will especially appeal to Wimpy Kid aficionados. Throughout, lively black-and-white cartoon illustrations depict characters, scenarios, and sundry ephemera with witty details. Readers will be anticipating the prankster pals’ further escapades. —Shelle Rosenfeld


Horn Book:
The Terrible Two
by Mac Barnett and Jory John; illus. by Kevin Cornell
Intermediate     Amulet/Abrams     220 pp.
1/15 978-1-4917-1491-7     $13.95
e-book ed. 978-1-61312-763-6     $13.95

“Welcome to Yawnee Valley, an idyllic place with rolling green hills that slope down to creeks, and cows as far as the eye can see.” Forced to leave behind both his beloved seaside home and his proud reputation as the class prankster, Miles Murphy dreads starting over in this new town where the air smells bovine. At school Miles becomes an immediate target for both the defensive Principal Barkin and his school-bully son. He also finds himself paired up with a do-gooder named Niles. Worst of all, Miles discovers that an impressive and anonymous prankster already attends the Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy. Miles must either out-prank this character…or join forces. Full of well-timed comedy, the chapters jump from scene to scene like crisp film cuts. Interspersed throughout are cow facts from    the Yawnee Valley Dairy Council (1,346 Interesting Things You May or May Not Know About Cows) and punchy line drawings that magnify the book’s dry humor and clever details. Well-paced for pleasure reading, this lively start to a new series provides great insight into social dynamics—as well as prank planning and execution! JULIE ROACH (March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine)


School Library Journal:
The Terrible Two
Gr 4–6—When you move to a new school, you get to decide who you want to be: front-row kid, kid with cool shoes, or smart kid. Miles Murphy has moved to a new town and a new school, but he doesn’t want to reinvent himself. He wants to be who he has always been; a prankster. The problem is, that role has already been taken by a troublemaker who is even better than Miles, Niles Sparks, masquerading as a do-gooder. Niles respects Miles’ skills and suggests they join forces as The Terrible Two. Initially disinterested, Miles ultimately realizes he is no match for Niles, and they work together to pull off the ultimate prank and develop a close friendship. Coauthors and friends Barnett and John have created a fast paced, laugh-out-loud novel sure to appeal to those who appreciate a good prank and have a sense of justice. The caricaturelike protagonists, particularly the childlike adult characters, add to the absurdity of the book, and the evolving relationship between the Miles and Niles is pure fun. Cornell’s varied graphics perfectly capture the humorous tone and add their own comic appeal. This is a good candidate for reluctant readers and a natural next read for fans of Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.—Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR