Friday, April 19, 2019

The Terrible Two's Last Laugh

Barnett, Mac and John, Jory. The Terrible Two's Last Laugh (#4)
December 24th 2018 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Mile and Niles, pranksters extraordinaire, are back for their last year at their school. They start the year off right, with some mild shenanigans on the bus, and are somewhat surprised when Principal Barkin calls them into his office. For once, they are not in trouble; Barkin just wants their help in upping his own pranking skills, which he has been trying out, not very successfully, on the staff. This comes to a halt, however, when the superintendent of the school dies and the elder, former principal Barkin becomes the superintendent! Undeterred by the nimbus like bullying behavior of the youngest Barkin, Josh, Miles and Niles set out to pull as many amusing and sophisticated pranks as they can, including declaring a Bring Your Pet to School Day that is rather successful. Things can't always go on the way they have been, and the duo gets some bad news. Will the end of the school year mean the end of the Terrible Two?

It is an all too common theme in middle grade literature to have the school principal be either a doofus or evil or both, and it was delightful to see Principal Barkin see the joy in pranking and seek advice from the best two practioneers of it! He had experienced some personal growth in the last book, but really comes in to his own here, even expressing admiration for the very first prank involving his hatch back. It would have been asking too much for Josh to also see the light, but my favorite part of this was Principal Barkin trying to come up with pranks that he could successful pull, and Miles and Niles instructing him on what "grace notes" to pranks would be!

The pictures capture the frenetic glee with which Miles and Niles go about their day, and add a depth to the characters. Superintendent Barkin's evil character is reinforced by the pictures of him in his striped suit, holding bolt cutters menancingly, and Miles and Niles friendship is shown in simple glimpses of them sitting under a tree or touching fingertips after a prank. There is even a light romance that is shown mainly through the pictures.

Yawnee Valley is a great town, and the descriptions of the local cows and small population are somewhat different than the typical middle grade novel setting. I'm not sure that any rural populations are going to be glad that their cows are painted with green and purple polka dots, but the tone of these novels is flippant and jovial enough to almost make me believe that they would find tourist opportunities to showcase these colorful animals.

Notebook novels are always a popular middle grade choice, and readers who have burned through Peirce's Big Nate, Berger's Lyttle Lies, Moore's King of the Bench series and Bergman and Scotts' Zits novelizations will enjoy reading about Miles and Niles exploits... and maybe even trying to recreate them!

1 comment:

  1. Can’t wait for more of Niles and Miles adventures