The Tell-Tale Start (Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe Series #1)

( 3 )


Meet Edgar and Allan Poe — twelve-year-old identical twins, the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of Edgar Allan Poe. They look and act so much alike that they're almost one mischievous, prank-playing boy in two bodies. When their beloved black cat, Roderick Usher, is kidnapped and transported to the Midwest, Edgar and Allan convince their guardians that it's time for a road trip. Along the way, mayhem and mystery ensue, as well as deeper questions: What is the boys' telepathic ...

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The Tell-Tale Start

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Meet Edgar and Allan Poe — twelve-year-old identical twins, the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of Edgar Allan Poe. They look and act so much alike that they're almost one mischievous, prank-playing boy in two bodies. When their beloved black cat, Roderick Usher, is kidnapped and transported to the Midwest, Edgar and Allan convince their guardians that it's time for a road trip. Along the way, mayhem and mystery ensue, as well as deeper questions: What is the boys' telepathic connection? Is Edgar Allan Poe himself reaching out to them from the Great Beyond? And why has a mad scientist been spying on the Poe family for years?

With a mix of literary humor, mystery, a little quantum physics, and fun extras like fortune cookie messages, letters in code, license plate clues — and playful illustrations thoughout — this series opener is a perfect choice for smart, funny tweens who love the Time Warp Trio, Roald Dahl, and Lemony Snicket.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McAlpine (Mystery Box) opens the Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe series by introducing the 12-year-old great-great-great-great-grandnephews of famed author Edgar Allan Poe. More than just identical twins, Edgar and Allan are literally of one mind (“Each always knew what the other was thinking, feeling, experiencing”). A mad professor is quite interested in harnessing the power of the boys’ mind meld (which is credited to “quantum entanglement” theory), and he creates an elaborate Wizard of Oz–related ruse to kidnap them. In establishing Edgar and Allan as orphaned mischievous geniuses with a connection to the macabre, the author lays some complex groundwork, including passages about what the twins don’t know and coded messages from Poe himself, delivered from the “great beyond.” This scene-setting slows the story’s initial progression, though the action eventually picks up, and Zup-pardi’s spindly b&w spot illustrations add to the overall creepy atmosphere. The light horror, snarky laughs, and gloom- and prank-loving protagonists should particularly appeal to fans of the Edgar and Ellen books and similar fare. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This might be the start of a hilarious series! Edgar and Allan Poe are super-identical twins who share thoughts, feelings, and pranks that get them expelled from their Baltimore school. The orphaned twins, great-great-great-great grand-nephews of Edgar Allan of horror story fame, live with their incredibly tolerant aunt and uncle. They communicate with their deceased ancestor through mistyped messages in fortune cookies. When their beloved cat, Roderick Usher, is catnapped, a misspelled message sends them off to Kansas to retrieve their pet from an Oz theme park run by an evil professor. The professor (passing himself off as Professor Marvel from the story), has designs on the boys, planning to kill one so the other will communicate his thoughts from the Land of the Dead. The twins navigate the maze of tricks that the professor sets for them, rescue their cat, and perform (badly) as Flying Monkeys in the theme park's Wizard of Oz pageant to hilarious results. The book is funny, outrageously punny, and intricately plotted in a way that will captivate young readers. With teases of Poe lore, this might even send young readers off to read the real Tell Tale Heart. Not only will this be an easy sell to boy and girl readers who love a funny mystery, it should be kept on your book shelf for reading aloud at the end of the school day. Book two is on the way and, truly, I can't wait. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Kirkus Reviews
Two twins so nearly interchangeable that they even share each other's thoughts nearly fall victim to a mad scientist in this mildly farcical series kickoff. Despite genius-level intellects, the young Poes little suspect that their every move has been surreptitiously recorded since birth by crazed nuclear physicist S. Pangborn Perry. Convinced that they are living embodiments of quantum entanglement, he intends to kill one and enslave the other to open a channel of communication with the afterlife. McAlpine first establishes the twins' bona fides as pranksters by having them turn their Baltimore basement into a chamber of horrors to cow a gang of bullies. He then sends them on a road trip to a supposed Oz-themed amusement park in Kansas, where Perry lurks with their kidnapped cat, Roderick Usher. Along the way, the lads cotton on to the fact that nefarious doings are afoot thanks to garbled warnings from their ancestral namesake, who watches over them from the not-quite-Heavenly office that generates fortune-cookie fortunes. In a climax filled with flying stage monkeys and falling counterweights, they scotch Perry's plot--at least for this episode. Occasional letters, journal entries and text messages, as well as small, scribbly ink sketches fill out and add visual breaks to the narrative. Middle-grade fans of L.L. Samson's Enchanted Attic series will enjoy this, though it's less clever in its twists and literary references. (Adventure. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670784912
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 1/10/2013
  • Series: Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe Series, #1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 524,342
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon McAlpine is the author of adult novels ranging from magical realism to hardboiled literary mystery. This is his first work for younger readers. He lives with his wife in Southern California.  His Web site is

Sam Zuppardi used to draw pictures at school when he was supposed to be doing work. In fact, he still draws pictures, though he is no longer at school. At the moment he lives in York, England which is a very picturesque city and particularly good for ghost walks. Sam likes a good ghost walk.  Visit his Web site at

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Read an Excerpt


“We’ve been observing you boys for a long time,” he continued. “And we’ve concluded that this is the moment to take control.”

“Control of what?”

“The two of you.”

“Hey, nobody controls us,” the boys snapped in unison.

“Boys, boys, boys,” Mr. Archer said, holding out his small hands in a reassuring gesture. “What I meant was control of your case.”

“We’re not a ‘case,’” Allan said.

Mr. Archer’s face froze, like a mask, and he fixed the boys with a glare.

Edgar and Allan kept silent.

He moved quickly toward the boys as if to shake their hands, but instead removed something shiny from his jacket pocket—tweezers! In a flash, he reached up and plucked several hairs from each of their heads.

“Ouch!” they shouted, jumping away.

He slipped each sample into its own small plastic bag and tucked the bags into his jacket.

The boys started toward the little man, their faces set in identical expressions of anger. But before they got close enough to snatch back the bags of hair, the office door burst open.




A black cat crossing your path signifies

that the animal is going somewhere.

—Groucho Marx


EDGAR and Allan Poe sat beside each other in the back row of their homeroom class, asleep. They’d been up late the night before, reading the latest in their favorite series, True Stories of Horror, and now they leaned shoulder-to-shoulder, head-to-head, together in dreamland. Like little sleeping angels….

Well, maybe not angels.

The Poe twins bore an uncanny resemblance to their famous great-great-great-great granduncle Edgar Allan Poe, the author of gothic tales so horrifying that for close to two centuries they have kept readers awake long into the night. Edgar and Allan were proud of their great-great-great-great granduncle and happy to look like him. Nonetheless, the resemblance ensured they would never be mistaken for run-of-the-mill boys.

The author Edgar Allan Poe as he looked in the 1840s

The Poe twins today



It wasn’t just external similarities that the boys shared with their great-great-great-great granduncle—they also shared his taste for the thrilling and unexpected.

Intrigue, coded messages, dark secrets…

And in at least one way, the boys’ minds were even more unusual than their famous uncle’s. If at this moment you could observe the insides of their sleepy heads rather than just the outsides, you’d discover the following:

Edgar was dreaming he was Allan.

Allan was dreaming he was Edgar.

The boys were jolted awake when their homeroom teacher, Mrs. Rosecrans, slammed her stapler on her desk (inadvertently squashing an unlucky ant that happened to be making its way toward the glazed doughnut Mrs. Rosecrans had set beside her attendance book). Now Edgar was no longer sure he was not actually Allan, as he had been in the dream, and Allan was not sure that he was not actually Edgar. They looked at each other and saw only their own faces looking back. It happened to them all the time.

No big deal.

No one could tell the difference between them because there was no difference—not even to Edgar and Allan. One moment one was Edgar, the next he was Allan. Same boy, different identity; same identity, different boy. Their thoughts and actions were not identical but coordinated, like moving parts in a single fine Swiss watch. Each always knew what the other was thinking, feeling, experiencing. Sometimes, they wondered if they were actually one boy with two bodies. Or two boys with one mind.

So sorry to have disturbed your beauty sleep, boys,” Mrs. Rosecrans said.

“Oh, that’s all right,” Edgar said, rubbing his eyes.

“You can just pick up your lecture where you left off and we’ll get right back to sleep,” Allan added.

The rest of the class laughed.

Mrs. Rosecrans didn’t think the matched set of Poes was funny, even if they were the most knowledgeable students she’d ever had. “So you two didn’t hear a word of what I just said?”

They shook their heads no, in unison.

She waved a note from the main office. “The principal wants to see you both, immediately.”

The boys’ classmates looked concerned.

But Allan and Edgar just yawned and ruffled their own already unruly heads of hair. “Why?” they asked.

“When it comes to you two, I can’t even begin to guess,” she answered.

The boys stood and gathered their books.

“Maybe Principal Mann needs our help planning the school’s curriculum,” Allan said.

“Either that or he wants our help writing his memoirs,” Edgar added.

Mrs. Rosecrans pointed to the door.

“Good luck,” the boys’ classmates whispered.

Edgar and Allan nodded appreciatively, though they didn’t think they’d need luck. The principal had always been putty in their hands.

The long hallway that led from Mrs. Rosecrans’s classroom to the main office of Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Middle School was empty aside from a scattering of other students who were excused from class for one reason or another.

“Hey, Edgar and Allan, are you guys going to the principal’s office again?” asked perky Sherry George, who was on her knees painting LUNCHTIME PEP RALLY on a ten-foot-long strip of paper.

The boys nodded.

“Does he want to see you about the skeleton?” she continued.

“Could be.”

A few days before, the boys had slipped into the biology lab during lunch period and artfully rearranged all the bones on the human skeleton. The result was a grotesque form that so startled and wrecked poor Mr. Parker’s nerves when he returned that he had to postpone that afternoon’s exam. The Poes’ less academically prepared classmates had been very grateful.

Another voice called from across the hallway, “Pssst, guys!”

It was Stevie “The Hulk” Harrison, one of their best friends, perched uncomfortably on a tiny chair outside Ms. Jenkins’s (“No talking will be tolerated!”) classroom. He motioned them over. “Does the principal want to see you about the rockets?”

The previous Thursday night, Edgar and Allan had stolen onto their rival school’s soccer field and dug half a dozen holes. Into these holes, they deposited six small rockets, covering their handiwork with a thin layer of turf. Late in Friday’s game, with the score tied 1-1, the six rockets simultaneously launched, ripping into the sky and bursting at their apex into a spectacular shower of red and gold sparks (Aldrin Middle School’s colors). Naturally, everyone gazed skyward—or almost everyone. When the wide-eyed fans, referees, and players eventually returned their attention to earth, they discovered that Stevie “the Hulk,” who’d been in on the plan, had just kicked the ball into the net for his first-ever goal, a game-winner, unopposed.

Who knew the two most valuable players weren’t on the field but in the stands, putting away their remote launchers?

The twins continued down the hall to more questions: Could it be this? Could it be that?

“Could be,” the Poes acknowledged every time.

Edgar and Allan had a lot of school spirit.

Mr. Mann stood beside his cluttered desk, his eyes narrowed to slits, his broad chest puffed out like a rooster. “Close the door behind you and don’t give me any of your guff,” he snarled.

“‘Guff’?” Edgar asked.

“It’s what you’re both full of,” Mr. Mann said.

“That’s funny,” Allan answered. “Last time we were here you told us we were full of ‘baloney.’”

“And before that it was ‘beans,’” Edgar added.

“And before that,” Allan said, “you actually told us we were full of—”

“Stop!” Mr. Mann demanded, pointing to two chairs. They had often seen his face grow red with anger, but at this moment it was a brighter shade than the boys had ever witnessed—something like the color of a baboon’s butt. “Sit down.”

Allan and Edgar sat.

“Do you boys know the meaning of the word ‘incorrigible’?”

“Of course,” Allan said.

“‘Incorrigible’ means to be incapable of being corrected or reformed,” Mr. Mann said, ignoring him.

“Yes, it’s Middle English from the late Latin,” Edgar said.

Incorrigibilis,” Allan added. “From corrigere, meaning ‘to correct.’”

The principal’s mouth opened slightly. “You know Latin?”

The boys looked at each other. “Sort of.”

“But we don’t teach Latin here,” Mr. Mann said. “Have you studied it at home?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘studied,’” Allan said.

“More like ‘played around with,’” Edgar added.

“Dead languages are one of our hobbies,” Allan explained. “You know, ancient Greek and Sanskrit…”

Mr. Mann was flabbergasted (as usual). Then he gathered himself. “Never mind about the languages! Your cleverness has never been in question. You two are descended from one of our country’s great literary geniuses, so maybe you’ve inherited something of his proficiency with words, to say nothing of his—”

“His madness?” The corners of Allan’s mouth turned up in a slight grin.

“Now, I didn’t say that,” Mr. Mann countered.

“But you thought it,” Edgar said, with an identical smirk.

Mr. Mann shook his head. “You two may know Latin, but you don’t read minds.”

“That’s true,” the boys said. Excluding each other’s mind…

They stood.

“Well, it’s been a very pleasant visit, Mr. Mann,” Edgar said. “But we should be getting back to class now.”

“Yes, it’s important we attend to our studies,” Allan continued. “But thanks for inviting us to your office. We always enjoy discussing etymology.”

The principal’s face reddened from the shade of a baboon’s butt to that of French teacher Mme. Guimont’s lipstick. He clenched his fists. “Sit down right now and behave!”

They sat.

“You boys are incorrigible,” Principal Mann repeated, catching his breath.

“If you actually think we’re incorrigible…” Edgar started.

“Then why are you bothering to talk to us at all?” Allan concluded.

“Because I’m expelling you,” he answered.

“What?” Identical expressions of surprise crossed the boys’ faces.

“The decision is final,” Mr. Mann continued. “We’re making special arrangements. You see, you’re being expelled from the entire school district. Effective immediately.”




Dear Principal Mann,

Now that our organization has provided you with evidence against Edgar and Allan Poe, we are confident that you will act in accordance with our wishes. Believe me, you’ll never regret removing these troublemakers from your school district.


Ian Archer, P.O.E.S.

P.S. I’m sure I needn’t remind you that we have also obtained evidence regarding the money you pocketed from your school’s funds. However, as long as you do as we wish, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

P.P.S. If you ever mention the existence of our organization to anyone, we will deliver to you a fate even worse than prison.


MR. MANN returned to his chair, settled back, and sighed. “Look, boys, we’ve given you every last opportunity.” He nervously wiped sweat from his brow.

What could a principal have to fear? the boys wondered.

“We tried keeping you together in classes, separating you, punishing you, praising you, even letting you teach the advanced material from time to time,” he continued, his voice softening. “I know you two haven’t had it easy since your mother and father were…” He searched for a delicate phrase.

“Lost in space?” Edgar suggested.

Mr. Mann nodded. “Yes, that was very sad.”

It was sad. Everyone in America knew the story. Mal and Irma Poe, the boys’ parents, had been brilliant and dedicated rocket scientists. But seven years before, while making last-minute adjustments to the Bradbury Telecommunications Satellite in the payload section of an Atlas V rocket, they lost track of the countdown and were accidentally launched into space. Their absence on the ground was not noted by Mission Control until after the satellite was in orbit. NASA apologized, but there was no bringing them back. On some clear nights, their orbiting tomb was a visible pinpoint of light among the background of stars.

Since then, the twins had lived with their aunt Judith and uncle Jack Poe, who were good and loving guardians, even if they were largely oblivious to the unusual workings of their nephews’ minds.

“Do you boys want to know why we’re expelling you?” Mr. Mann asked.

They were curious—but they didn’t expect much in the way of a good explanation.

Mr. Mann stood and cracked his knuckles. “I’m expelling you because you cheated on your academic evaluation tests!”

“Cheated?” the boys asked, incredulous.

“Yes, and your cheating will throw our entire school district’s otherwise outstanding test results into a questionable light with the state authorities,” Mr. Mann said. He picked up a stack of papers from his desk, shuffling them mindlessly. “It’s unforgivable. And considering your previous disciplinary record, it’s the last straw. You’re out for good. Done.”

Confused, Allan and Edgar looked at one another. They didn’t cheat, ever. Why would they? They didn’t need to cheat to get good grades.

“We don’t know how you did it,” Mr. Mann continued, dropping the shuffled papers back on his desk. “We put you at opposite ends of the school and gave you the tests at the same time—and you still missed the same three questions out of a possible six hundred. Do you have any idea of the odds against this? Millions to one.”

“The only explanation is that those questions must have been inaccurately worded,” Allan said.

“Otherwise, we’d have both missed zero,” Edgar added.

“I don’t want to hear your critique of the test!” Mr. Mann snapped. “I want to know how you cheated.”

Obviously, he didn’t understand how things worked with Allan and Edgar, whose knowledge was always identical, however far apart they were. Two boys, one mind—one mind, two boys. But Edgar and Allan thought it very unlikely that the principal could ever grasp the matter. So they sat back in their chairs and grinned. If they were going to be expelled, then they might as well have a little fun.

“We must be diabolical geniuses,” they said, “to pull off a maneuver like that.”

“Exactly,” Mr. Mann said, missing the irony.

The boys raised their dark eyebrows. What was to be done about someone this dense?

“So does being expelled from the district mean we can join the French Foreign Legion?” Allan asked the principal.

“Can we finally run for Congress?” Edgar inquired.

“Can we start working as brain surgeons?”

“Do you boys take nothing seriously?” Mr. Mann snapped.

“We take breakfast seriously,” Allan answered with utter sincerity.

“It’s the most important meal of the day,” Edgar said.

Mr. Mann gave them a hard look.

But beneath their joking, there was something the boys took seriously about this—they’d miss being around their friends and classmates (and even a few of their teachers). And the timing couldn’t be worse.

Next Monday was Halloween, their favorite holiday. Every year since kindergarten, Edgar and Allan had come to school dressed as one or another of their great-great-great-great granduncle’s characters (ax-wielding madmen, ominous ravens, skeletal grim reapers…). Now that tradition would be broken. They would have launched an impassioned plea to stay in school if at that moment they had not been distracted by a small, redheaded man who suddenly emerged from a shadowed corner of the office.

Had he been here all along? If so, he must have been standing very still, the boys thought.

He wore a well-tailored suit and a skull-shaped earring, and as he drew near, they realized he was even shorter than they were (and they were somewhat small for their age). When he smiled, his teeth flashed a blinding white.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2013

    Enjoyed it.

    Enjoyed it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 21, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Listened to the book with 5yr old boy while driving in a few day

    Listened to the book with 5yr old boy while driving in a few days. He was
    very interested with it. He found it funny,  silly, adventurous, learned new
    words /vocabulary, how to pronounce them
    and find synonyms and antonyms for the words. Learned about
    order-what chapter are we Listening, the title of the chapters,  characters,
    and the characters relationship to one another, plot, setting. 
    It was a very entertaining, engaging and educational book to listen. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013


    I dunno about this book. It seemed too much like Edgar and Ellen, which is a great series. But this book seems kinda like a wannabe of that. I'd give it 3.50 stars because it kept me reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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