Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
Timmy Failure
Stephan Pastis
ISBN 9780763660505
Candlewick, 2013.
5 stars
Keywords: detective-stories family friends pets school stephan-pastis timmy-mistakes-were-made unreliable-narrator

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure is an unreliable narrator to stand alongside such antiheroes as Charlie Brown and Greg Heffley.

Timmy and his sidekick, a 1,500-pound polar bear named Total, tackle such mysteries as classmate Gunnar's missing Halloween candy and the death of Max Hodges's hamster. As Timmy overlooks vital clues, readers will find the humor in his miscues. Timmy rides his mother's off-limits Segway (which he calls the "Failuremobile"), and when it goes missing, he suspects the girl he refers to as "the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered," Timmy's classmate and successful rival detective.

Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls Before Swine, here makes his children's book debut, liberally illustrating the novel with images of a wide-eyed hero and his supporting cast. Along with the humor, he captures touching moments between Timmy and his mother, who's raising her son solo, and between Timmy and Total ("Two against the world," Timmy calls them, alongside a poignant picture of them walking into the sunset). The comical dynamic between Timmy and high-achieving Rollo Tookus, whose anxiety turns him into a bobblehead whenever Timmy brings their group test score to zero, camouflages the fact that Rollo comes through when Timmy really needs him. Eventually Timmy does solve all his mysteries, to his own satisfaction, while also leaving readers with the understanding that he still has some growing up to do.

Readers will be eager to welcome Timmy back in his next adventure, and cheer on the success of Total Failure, Inc.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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