Many authors find public appearances exhausting. There are the demands of drawing in an audience, answering questions, and signing many copies of books. Of course most writers don’t visit 22 schools in one week.
But authors Mac Barnett and Jory John recently did just that to promote the publication of their children’s book “The Terrible Two.” “Two,” which was released on Jan. 13, tells the story of Miles, a boy who moves to a new school in the town of Yawnee Valley. At his old school, Miles was king of the pranksters. But in Yawnee Valley he soon realizes there’s someone who may be a serious threat when it comes to his title.
Cathy Berner of Texas’s Blue Willow Bookshop, who helped to organize, recently wrote a column for industry newsletter Shelf Awareness detailing the extremely busy tour.
“Our biggest concerns … were whether or not we could pull off the logistics and whether that many school visits would provide meaningful experiences for all involved,” she wrote. “In short, we could and they did…. Mac and Jory opened each presentation with a prank on the students. As we arrived at each campus, they asked an administrator to pretend that the author visit was cancelled due to the book's content. But since an assembly had been promised, the administration would provide two doctors to discuss healthy eating. Mac and Jory entered in lab coats and moustaches and began the presentation, speaking seriously (and boringly) about ‘cool foods’ and ‘stop sign foods.’ Some kids never bought into the prank, but most did, and their looks of shocked surprise when Mac and Jory removed their disguises and began the real presentation brought extra energy to the assembly…. They were mobbed at the end of each assembly, wading into the crowd to give the special prankster handshake or to consult on prank ideas. Because of that connection mixed with humor, they turned kids on to their book, and – I suspect – on to reading. At one of the Title I schools we visited, more than 20 students wrote a letter to the librarian asking if they could each pay $1 per week in order to get their own copy of 'The Terrible Two'. If that doesn't speak to the impression these two pranksters made, what does? It was a crazy, hilarious week.”
Barnett’s Twitter account provides some images of the authors in their “doctor” garb.
Woodville Library of Houston's Woodview Elementary expressed on Twitter how happy staff were with the authors’ visit.
Meanwhile, “Two” is getting some critical praise as well. Juliet Morefield of Oregon’s Multnomah County Library reviewed the book favorably for School Library Journal, writing that “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….. 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.” Kirkus Reviews wrote that “characters may be stock; however, the pranks are anything but…. Fluffy, fast, fun reading for fans of Clueless McGee and the Wimpy Kid”. Publishers Weekly found the book to be “boisterous…. Barnett … and John … are in perfect comic harmony.”