The opening spread of THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA features a prologue that reads, in a sweeping script, “The End.”
Lest we be fooled, the cantankerous narrator follows up with a question: “Did you enjoy the Prologue? Do you think it makes the slightest bit of difference to me whether you did or not?” And so readers are pulled in by the begrudging wit of the narrator. Although never named, he establishes himself as a character just as lively as any other in the book, skillfully withholding information and revealing the tale of the Templeton twins along the way.
The twelve year-old Templeton twins, John and Abigail, live with their father, a professor and inventor, who has not worked since his wife died earlier in the year. Thinking that the family needs a change, the twins convince their father to buy a dog. Cassie, the Ridiculous Dog, as the narrator calls her, infuses life into the household, reinvigorating Professor Templeton and prompting him to go back to work.
So the family packs up and moves to the Tickeridge-Baltock Institute of Technology (nick-named Tick-Tock Tech), where Professor Templeton is provided a laboratory and teaching position. During a public lecture, the Professor and the twins encounter a disgruntled former student who claims the professor has stolen his invention. The accusation reveals a years-long vendetta and sweeps the Templeton twins into a kidnapping plot.
Readers will quickly learn that the twins are not easily intimidated, and certainly not to be underestimated. And while they prove to be resourceful and clever, relying on teamwork to thwart their captors, they undoubtedly must share the spotlight with the narrator. The sarcasm and humor with which he tells the tale will delight readers and carry them through to the end.
With THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA, Ellis Weiner presents the first in a series sure to appeal to both boys and girls. Book two is expected in September 2013.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS:
Teachers may find that several meta-fictive elements in the book prove to be useful tools for discussing the building blocks of a novel: everything from prologue, to unreliable narrators, to foreshadowing. Even the jacket copy explains itself and references what a book jacket should do. The narrator constantly interrupts the narrative in order to explain his method for telling the story and question the assumptions of the reader. (For example, when the twins speak on page 30, the narrator remarks on their different patterns of dialogue and what that says about their individual character.)
Try getting the discussion started by having your class read quotes from the novel out loud. Have the students tell you which character is speaking, and ask them how they know.
Since wordplay is featured in the novel, you could also encourage your students to create their own cryptograms. Then, have them trade and see if they can stump one another. (Examples and explanations of the cryptograms in the novel can be found on pages 81, 86-92, 97, 117-118, and 129.)
Between the humor, the unconventional style of narration, and the design and illustrations, this novel presents many points of entry for a classroom discussion.
Reviewed by GPB
THEMES: BROTHERS AND SISTERS. INVENTIONS AND INVENTORS. ADVENTURE & ADVENTURERS. HUMOR. WORDS AND WORD PLAY
Chronicle Books, 2012
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up