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Literature / The Terrible Two

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The Terrible Two is a kid's novel by Jory John, Mac Barnett, and Kevin Cornell. It was published in 2015. It is the first in a series.

Miles Murphy has just moved to the boring town of Yawnee Valley, known for its many cows. As his old school's most infamous prankster, he looks forward to continuing his pranking at his new school. The problem is, there's already a prankster there.

It was followed by The Terrible Two Get Worse in 2016. A third book came out in 2017, titled The Terrible Two Go Wild. The fourth and final book, The Terrible Two's Last Laugh, was published in the same year.


  • Alliterative Name: Miles Murphy, along with Bertrand Barkin and his sons Barry and Bob Barkin.
  • Author Catchphrase: A few lines are used many times across the series.
    • ”I don’t remember any of this!”
    • ”Ha, ha!” said [blank]. (He actually said “ha, ha!”)
  • Badass Longcoat: Miles is bothered by how cool Niles looks in a turtleneck and trenchcoat.
  • Bait-and-Switch Character Intro: Niles is introduced as a teacher’s pet that is dedicated to academic excellence. As we find out, however, this is all a show to keep the school staff off his back.
  • Black Sheep: Though Jimmy Barkin was a principal like all other Barkins, he was notable for being a kind and fun-loving man (even called the Smiling Principal) in comparison to the other Barkins. Because this was in dissonance with the Barkins' family values, he is looked down on and often used as a bad example by his own son.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When the prank lab is introduced, Miles picks out a bit of French written on the wall: "oú est le magasin de bonbons le plus proche?" This translates to "Where is the nearest candy store?"
  • The Bully: Josh Barkin, the principal's son, picks on other kids including Miles.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One of the cow facts ends up as this. The fact that cows can walk up stairs, but not down them, is used to fill the school with cows.
  • Fictional Document: Excerpts from the cow facts booklet are scattered throughout the book.
  • First-Episode Twist: Niles being one half of the Terrible Two. In fact, the cover practically gives it away for you.
  • The Hyena: Stuart is introduced this way. He loves to laugh at his own jokes, despite nobody else finding him funny.
  • Indy Ploy: Miles is good at improvising when he needs to.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Niles' family is pretty well off, but he's never had a friend over.
  • Odd Friendship: From the outside, Miles and Niles appear to have this.
  • The Prankster: The premise of the book.
  • Rhyme Theme Naming: Rivaling pranksters Miles and Niles.
  • Running Gag:
    • Principal Barry Barkin’s face turning all sorts of colors whenever he’s angry: “purple”, “indigo”, “eggplant”, and “nectarine”, just to name a few.
    • Miles’s inability to bake.
    • Barry Barkin’s tendency to drag out a metaphor way longer than it needs to be. It’s even made fun of in the last book when Miles gets lost in his own metaphor and Niles points out how similar the two sound.
    • Stuart laughing at his own jokes when nobody else does.
  • Teacher's Pet: Niles is a student aide and very enthusiastic about following the rules.