Friday, 28 September 2012

review: The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

by Ellis Weiner, illustr. by Jeremy Holmes
Chronicle Books, August 15 2012
contemporary middle-grade

Moving to a new town usually isn't dangerous. But Abigail and John's father, Elton Templeton, is an inventor, and everyone knows inventors are always in danger of being accused of stealing ideas. So when Dean D. Dean and his twin Dan D. Dean kidnap Abigail and John so their father will hand over his latest invention, well, don't say I didn't warn you. Thank goodness the twins are a good sight cleverer than you evidently are.
The cover:

The tall, skinny font gives this cover immediate character, and the ovals surrounding the twins are interesting -- are they portraits, or are they looking out the windows of some machine? The diagram effects (arrows, labels and the pointer hand) are in keeping with the rest of the novel, and that lightbulb beneath "Have An Idea" is the perfect finishing touch.

The book:

The Narrator is introduced right off the bat. His voice is ringingly present throughout the entire story, and once you've gotten used to visualizing him as another character (rather than an obtrusive authorly dictator), his humour is enjoyable to anticipate. His presence even goes so far as to provide Questions for Review at each chapter's end and a meatloaf recipe (!!) halfway through.

This quirkiness is echoed through the book: Tick-Tock Tech University has some form of clock built into every building, names are bandied about (the twins' nanny is Nancy Noonan, or Nanny Nan Noonan) and possibly-useful-not-quite-ludicrous inventions abound. Not to mention Abigail's cryptic crosswords, which aren't exactly crosswords but loads of fun to try and solve.

Character development is scarce, but a surprising --and welcome -- amount of backstory is worked into the first few chapters, which details the Templetons' home life. Abigail and John are endearing through their hobbies and their cleverness. Professor Templeton's grief over his wife's passing is portrayed well, and Cassie the Ridiculous Dog is adorable and handy, but never in a deus ex machina way. The book is short; accordingly, the plot is neat, but happily with a few great twists.

And the packaging, can we talk about the packaging for a paragraph? The book's paper is divine -- I'm not sure how it differs from a regular novel's, but it does somehow, and it feels perfect for the illustrations, which spill over into and around the text for a glorious visual treat. The illustration style is clean-cut and wonky, and that makes for a delightful combination.

Rating: 4.1 out of 5