Bridging the gap between children’s literature and young adult (YA) literature can be a difficult task. This is the age where many children who once loved reading find themselves slowly, or sometime suddenly, becoming uninterested in reading. They are eager to move on from the books of their early childhood, but they are not quite ready for YA literature. It is during this time (roughy ages 8-12), that children develop a desire for books that provide a bit more of an intellectual challenge and will feature a storyline with a bit more “grit.” If we can’t help them find books that fill this need, featuring darker and more complex storylines, more advanced vocabulary, and more sophisticated characters, we run the risk that these children may see reading as boring or babyish, leaving it behind and never turning back.
In Ellis Weiner‘s new book series, The Templeton Twins, he has succeeded in navigating the murky waters of this segment of the children’s literature market. This series ups the ante, proving that reading is an activity that evolves as the reader grows and changes. The Templeton Twins provides top-notch illustrations, interesting fonts and textual artistry, as well as other complements to the story (crosswords! and a recipe!) that help to visually engage the reader in a fresh, fun, and distinctly mature (as opposed to childish) way. The storylines are decidedly darker than those of books the children were reading just a year or two before. There are villainous plots, the shadow of death, and people misbehaving, but it is just enough to satisfy that desire for grit and complexity without crossing the line into YA material. And the humor! There is a brilliant blend of silly, witty, and sarcastic in these books that is just perfect for this age. And they appeal to boys and girls alike!
One of Weiner’s greatest accomplishments, at least in my opinion, is how he uses language in these books. He uses challenging vocabulary and figurative language, and he asks his readers to make inferences and draw conclusions from the text. The great triumph is that he manages to do this without making the reader acutely aware that they are having to work to develop these skills.
The Templeton Twins books tell of the adventures of 12-year-old twins John and Abigail Templeton. The twins are both quite smart, each in their own ways, kind, and, unlike many siblings, they get along quite well together. John and Abigail are likable enough, but the true star of the Templeton Twins is The Narrator. He (or she) is supremely arrogant and sarcastic, but also charmingly witty and immensely entertaining. Here’s a quick preview video to give you an idea of the effect The Narrator has on the tone of the series:
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is the first book in the series. In it we are introduced to the characters, and then the story takes off and we find ourselves in the middle of a zany and entertaining adventure.
This book is one that will keep even the most reluctant of readers entertained. What is even better, though, is that it will have them building their reading skills in the process. The text is so rich with opportunities for learning, from vocabulary to inferences, and figurative language to point of view.
To help you use The Templeton Twins Have an Idea in your classroom, I have put together a comprehensive book unit that will make using this book in your classroom as fun for you as it will be for your students!
The book unit includes:
- vocabulary exercises that ask students to determine the meaning of words using a range of strategies
- word wall cards
- crossword puzzles that are the perfect compliment to Abigail’s cryptic crosswords from the text
- exercises in compare/contrast, inferences, and point of view
- writing prompts that cover many CCSS, with an emphasis on similes and metaphors
- questions asking students to identify tone, setting(s), point of view(s), and figurative language
- Student Packet containing 30+ pages
- multiple assessments (covering the 6 sections of the book)
- Final Exam
- Final Vocabulary Quiz
- 17 options for student projects that tie in to the story
- complete answer key
This book unit meets the following CCSS standards:
- R.L. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.6, 4.10
- L. 4.4, 4.5
- W. 4.1, 4.9a
- R.L. 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.6, 5.7, 5.10
- L. 5.4, 5
- W. 5.1, 5.9a
This book unit was a lot of fun to put together! I hope you and your students enjoy it as well.