Hello!My name is Kayley and I am 10.I really like your book:The tempelton twins have an Idea.I got it from my school libary.The book is really funny and the narrator is hilerious! The illurstrations are fantastic.I’m going to try drawing the twins.I shall post it to you soon!
Thank you for this lovely note. I’m glad you like my narration about the Templeton Twins and that you think I am “hilarious.” It so happens that I agree with you. I urge you not to take this for granted—I rarely agree with anyone other than myself.
I also find myself in agreement with you about the fantastic-ness of the illustrations. You will be delighted to learn—as, indeed, I was delighted to learn—that the next book about the twins, entitled The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, will feature illustrations by exactly the same illustrator (Jeremy Holmes) who worked on the first book. This is almost too good to be true, but it IS true.
The next book comes out in October. I know you can’t wait, because I can’t wait, and you and I agree about everything. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing your drawing of the twins.
The Tokyo String Quartet has finished their last concert at 92Y tonight, to an appreciative full house. In July, they will retire an extraordinary 44-year career.
The Tokyo String Quartet first performed at 92Y in 1977. It became the 92Y quartet-in-residence in 2003. In those years, they played 31 concerts and 101 works by 20 composers to thousands of fans. Tonight we bid farewell to this remarkable ensemble. Together, we thank the Tokyo for the enlightenment, insight and sheer pleasure they have brought into our lives. We look forward to welcoming them back to 92Y as individuals and friends in the years to come.
(Photo of the Tokyo String Quarter rehearsing at 92Y for the last time. May 11, 2013.)
In July, the Tokyo String Quartet will “retire an extraordinary 44-year career.” Here, we are told, is a photograph of them rehearsing on May 11 of this year. It allows us to see just how extraordinary this ensemble is, as it is apparently the only quartet in the world with five players. Then again, I am under the impression that “The Ben Folds Five” consists of three players, so it may be that the deceptive naming of musical groups is more widespread than I know.
In any case, both me, myself, and I wish all five members of the Tokyo String Quartet congratulations on a splendid career. Believe me when I say that I remain
Compliments and Questions
Dear Ellis Weiner, or Narrator;
My name is Maia, I’m in 4th grade and have been writing stories ever since I learned my alphabet. When I saw this book in the catalog, I knew I had to read it. I just had a feeling… And I really liked it. How do you write like that? The style where the reader feels involved? I can’t wait till September!
I have prevailed on Mr. Ellis Weiner to allow me to respond to your delightful letter. I am very gratified to learn that you really liked The Templeton Twins Have an Idea. After having been forced to narrate it, I find it at least some consolation that there are readers “out there” who, like you, recognize excellence in narration when they see it. So thank you.
As for how I create narratives in which the reader feels involved, while of course I cannot disclose (not even to you) all my secrets, I will say that I take special care to talk directly to the reader. I also make it a policy to openly insult and mock the reader whenever possible. I find that this not only makes the reader feel involved, but it makes ME feel involved—and isn’t that what’s important, in the end? I mean really?
I would like to know who, at the Paris Review, took the photograph above, showing me (on, it need hardly be said, the right) and some random fellow on the left.
Yes, the “gestalt” of the image is clear: books “lift” one up out of the parochial stuntedness (spell check protests but I assure it, it is a word) of one’s and everyone else’s limited perspective. But lost in the photo, I fear, is an acknowledgment of how much actual physical labor it cost me to find and stack the books.
Well, never mind. I am used to such neglect. What does not kill me makes me stronger, unless it wounds me, in which case it makes me weaker. Meanwhile, now we know what librarians mean by “the stacks.”
Do not be surprised that I remain
Yours as ever,
This is profoundly true. And yet the unseemly outburst depicted above—weeping—is nothing, compared to the unseemliness and outburstiness of public expressions of mirth. Cry in public, and those around you will discreetly look away. Laugh in public, and you will be surrounded by the hostile glares of the jealous and the resentful. I should know. I laugh in public all the time, usually at nothing. When someone takes it upon him (or her) self to ask, “What’s so funny?” I say, “Life itself! Don’t you think?” That’s usually enough to shut them up.
Why did you choose Abigail’s hobby to be cryptic crosswords? And is there really such thing????
From Nicole (who loves this book and wants more!)
That is a good question, although if we think about it a moment and ask ourselves, “Is it really a good question?” I think we can all agree that it is not. I did not choose Abigail’s hobby. Abigail did. However, you may ask, “Why did I choose to narrate about Abigail’s hobby? Did I think my readers would find it interesting?”
That actually is a good question, and I thank you for asking it, to the extent that the person who asked it wasn’t me. I did and do think the reader will find cryptic crosswords interesting, and can think of no other instance in children’s book narration in which it is discussed.
Which is also to say, most emphatically: Yes, there really is such a thing. I invite you to “Gargle” (as the young people say) the term “cryptic crosswords,” and you will find ample evidence and ample examples of its existence. There are even what are called “variety cryptics” in which, not only are the clues themselves little puzzles, but the puzzle itself is turned inside out, or is shaped like an eggplant, or has no numbers, or everything has to be written upside down, and so forth. You may “Gargle” “variety cryptics” to see what I’m talking about.
Finally, in conclusion, let me thank you for loving the book. Join me in not-being-able-to-wait-for the next one to come out. It is called The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, and is due in September or October of this year. How will we ever manage to pass the time until then? By doing cryptic crossword puzzles, of course.
Mr. Exquisit and Highly Talented Narrator, Are you Dean or Dan?
Thank you for the complimentary adjectives (final “e” in “exquisite”) but, while this is an astute guess—more astute than you know—the answer is “neither.” Some day, in the radiant future, I will reveal my identity, assuming I am in the mood to do so. This will take place in a future book, of course, although which, and when, are for now a mystery even to me.
Make a new book
You really need to make a second series this book was great and hilarious—legobrick847
Thank you, firstname.lastname@example.org, if that really IS your name. But in fact I have already done what I “need” to do, inasmuch as I have indeed narrated Book II and it is, as we speak, being illustrated by the excellent Jeremy “Don’t Call Me Sherlock” Holmes.
This book will be called The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, and will be available around September of this year. I know you cannot wait. I can, but then, I don’t have to. But now I have confused even myself, so never mind.
By the way, I find I don’t use the word “inasmuch” as much as perhaps I should. I urge you to urge me to use it more often.
Turkish Templeton Tree! The Turkish publisher of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea created this gorgeous tree! İnanılmaz!
Why is The Narrator so goofy?
I like your story. This is one of the best. But The Narrator is goofy and annoying.
I am sorry you think I am “goofy.” But I’m not THAT sorry. Why? Because think of all the books you have read in which the narrator is NOT goofy. Almost all of them, right? Well, don’t you think it’s nice for something—a snack, a shirt, a book—to be a little different every once in a while?
If you wanted all narrators, and therefore all books, to be the same, you might as well just read the same book over and over. But you don’t (thank goodness). So a little goofiness—or even a lot of goofiness—can be a good thing.
I urge you to continue to think of my narration as goofy, but not as “annoying.” Think of it as being a different kind of narration. The more you read, the more you will see that there are many different kinds of narrators (and believe me, some of them are really annoying). You will also find that you like a lot of them.
Besides, without my narration—goofy, annoying, or whatever—there would be no stories of the Templeton Twins. And nobody wants that.
In one of your new books, can you reveal the narrator? Or give clues at least? Where did you come up with the story? What do you think your next book will be? From , Grace
Speaking as The Narrator, I prefer to think that I have “revealed” myself as much as is seemly. However, readers will be enthralled to learn that, in the next book, I reproduce an exchange I once had with my mother. It is possible that further details of my background, my upbringing, my worldview, and other compound words concerning me, will be forthcoming in future books.
As for where the story came from, I will have to refer you to Mr. Ellis Weiner for the definitive account. I do know for a fact, however, that he is not a twin himself, nor is he an inventor. He does, however, play the drums, and is fond of cryptic crossword puzzles, and once had a white smooth-haired fox terrier named Cassie, about whom everyone AND HIS BROTHER would ask, “Is that a Jack Russell?”
The next book, entitled The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, takes place at a performing arts college. The twins’ previous nemeses are involved. The nanny is different.
Q: What inspired the look of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea?
A: The overall look of the book was inspired by a folded-up set of worn blueprints I found tucked in the back of an old machine parts catalog. There was something about the blurred lines and faded imagery that fit the inventive, yet offbeat mood of the story. As for the illustrations, they drew their inspiration from the unnecessarily complex and humorous gadgety gizmos of W. Heath Robinson, Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen) and the infamous Rube Goldberg.
Q: What medium did you use to illustrate The Templeton Twins Have an Idea?
A: The illustrations were created by digitally collaging found blueprint textures, watercolored shapes and photocopied line drawings.
This is a style study in pastel pencil. Trying to figure out materials…
Q: How did you get started illustrating books for children?
A: I’m not one of those people who’ve always known they were destined to become an artist. As a kid, I had a giant-size appetite for play which made it impossible for me to sit down for any extended period of time. This would handcuff the development of my artistic abilities until college. After trying my hand at architecture, web design and graphic design, I finally realized what occupation I could funnel my still sizable appetite for play into: children’s books. In 2009, Chronicle Books published my first children’s book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. The rest is waiting to be written (and illustrated).
Q: What is your studio like?
A: Here’s a photo of my workspace.
Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?
A: The old “favorite artist” question ehhh… Like most, the list is substantial… so I’ll narrow it down to a select few children’s book authors/illustrators. The contemporary list would have to include Lane Smith, Robert Sabuda, Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen, Matt Phelan, Gilbert Ford and Carson Ellis. The “oldies but goodie” list would include Theodor Geisel, Ruth Krauss, Maurice Sendak, and Crockett Johnson.
Q: What was your favorite book when you were a child?
A: My favorite picture book as a child was Bill Peet’s Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure. The image of Hubert’s mane at the end still makes me chuckle.
Q: What is your motto?
A: The enemy of a great idea is a good one.
Q: What natural gift would you most like to possess?
A: A super hero’s metabolism. I love all things scrumdiddlyumptious.
Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: A dessert chef.
Q: What makes you laugh?
A: Currently, the funniest thing in my life is my 3 year old and his attempts at figuring out this backwards planet we’ve built for him.
What inspired you to write The Templeton Twins Have an Idea?
Ellis Weiner: I thought it would be fun to write for a younger audience, who seem up for anything in terms of absurdity. Also, I realized that such an audience would be perfect as the targets of “abuse” from a narrator who is a gigantic pill—a cruder and more ridiculous form of those great Nabokovian pill-narrators like Humbert Humbert (Lolita) and Charles Kinbote (Pale Fire). So I thought of The Bobbsey Twins books I read as a kid, and decided it would fun to establish a pair of twins as the straight men of the piece. I could therefore split between them the attributes and interests I wanted to take seriously and still be able to surround them with absurd adults.
The Narrator: It may interest you to know that, in fact, the individual who narrates The Templeton Twins Have an Idea—and who, therefore, can actually be said to have “created” it—is not Mr. Ellis Weiner. Mr. Weiner is merely a person whose name is on the cover. I will say that I was compelled to narrate The Templeton Twins Have an Idea for reasons and by forces I am not disposed to reveal at this time. They may be divulged in a later book.
What was your inspiration for the ridiculous dog?
Ellis Weiner: The hyper-active, white, constantly-electrified smooth-haired fox terrier named Cassie in the book is somewhat based on a hyper-active, white, constantly-electrified smooth-haired fox terrier named Cassie, which I used to own. In fact, forget “somewhat.” The twins’ dog is my (late) dog.
The Narrator: Mr. Ellis Weiner insisted that the twins obtain such a dog, and I had no choice but to go along with the whole ridiculous business. I am not, you will be unsurprised to learn, “a dog person.”
Would you like to own a personal one-man helicopter?
Ellis Weiner: Yes, although I fudge in the book about how heavy the battery would have to be and how loud the whole thing is.
The Narrator: No. The prospect of hovering over people, and thus being subjected to their constant attention, is not appealing. Neither is the idea of having to take the equipment off once one arrives at one’s destination, store it in some fashion, and then put it back on in order to go home.
What was your favorite thing to do when you were John and Abigail’s age?
Ellis Weiner: Play softball and touch football, and read. I do play the drums, but I didn’t start until I was sixteen.
The Narrator: Collect postage stamps from many lands, build scale models of aircraft carriers, and pretend to conduct symphony orchestras being played on the hi-fi.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Ellis Weiner: I didn’t have a favorite book so much as favorite series, which were Tom Swift (Jr.), and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. Or maybe The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
The Narrator: Atlas Shrugged. Eventually I outgrew it, as one does. But up until about the age of 13 I was its most ardent devotee.
What is your motto?
Ellis Weiner: I don’t have one. Or, if I did, it would be something like, “Beware people with mottoes.”
The Narrator: I do not have a motto of my own, per se. However, I am very fond of the motto I saw printed on a check from a restaurant inBaltimore,Maryland, called The Harvey House. It’s from many years ago and the establishment has long since been out of business, but its motto endures in my mind. In fact I am thinking of adopting it as my own. It goes thus: “Cut your steak with a fork, else tear up the check and walk out.”
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Ellis Weiner: Well, aside from looking like a non-obnoxiously-handsome leading man, probably being able to play piano like Oscar Peterson. Or drums like Dave Weckl.
The Narrator: I would have liked to be able to sing like Mandy Patinkin, with great feeling. As it is, I do sing with great feeling, but with an inferior voice.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Ellis Weiner: Theoretical physics.
The Narrator: Professional ice dancer.
What makes you laugh?
Ellis Weiner: Apparent absurdity that reveals its sense. Watching others be exasperated. Indignant bombast. Accurate parody.
The Narrator: Slapstick of the Laurel and Hardy (but not the Three Stooges) kind. Being right about something after being told that I’m wrong.
What’s the funniest question anyone has asked you at a book event or school visit?
Ellis Weiner: “Do you know that we have an 8-year-old student here whose name is also Ellis Weiner?”
The Narrator: “What is it about Ellis Weiner that you admire most?”
Can you tell us what the Templeton Twins will be up to in book two?
Ellis Weiner: The Professor will take them to the Thespian Academy of the Performing Arts (TAPAS), where he will invent a breakthrough theatrical device and the Dean twins will try to obtain rights to it. There will be a new nanny, the same old (and ridiculous) Cassie, and the twins will get into and out of various scrapes as only they can.
The Narrator: Does it matter? So long as I am narrating it?
Endeavour in Los Angeles, credit: unknown.
This, if I may indulge myself in a moment of unconcealed and shameless patriotism, is what America means to me: It is a place where you can drive your spaceship down palm-lined streets surrounded by happy pedestrians; where you can lose weight while eating M&Ms; where even the billboards encourage you to “live for now”; where hot summer days are proclaimed and celebrated by random, attractive signs reading SIZZLER; where other signs openly point the way to “auto service experts.”
In sum, it is a place where the Templeton Twins themselves (whose first adventure may be shared in The Templeton Twins Have an Idea) would probably live. And I should know. I am, as you need no reminding,