The character, Timmy Failure, may live up to his name, but the book of the same title is anything but a disappointment. Stephan Pastis, creator of the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip, ventures into the world of children’s books with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, bringing middle-grade readers a hilarious, multi-layered story.
As Timmy tells it, readers hold in their hands the most valuable compendium of knowledge about detective work ever written. It is also his life story, which, has had a few road blocks—including an “idiot best friend” and a 1,500-pound polar bear—that make his accomplishments all the more impressive. Timmy goes to great lengths to tell us what a great detective he is, but Pastis’ charming illustrations tell a different story. We first see Timmy and his partner, the aforementioned polar bear, bumble the simplest of cases. A boy named Gunnar hires the pair to find out what happened to his missing Halloween candy. Timmy walks by Gunnar’s brother’s room, sees him in bed surrounded by candy wrappers with chocolate all over his mouth, and jots down a note that reads, “Gabe: not tidy.”
As Timmy works through other cases, including a missing shoe and a toilet-papered house, two major events occur that threaten to keep him from achieving his goal of making Failure, Inc. the best detective agency in the world. First, the Failuremobile (a.k.a. his mom’s Segway) gets stolen, and then at school, he is assigned to work in a group with his arch nemesis, the other kid detective in his class. Timmy has to figure out a way to keep his mom from uncovering the theft of her beloved Segway (that Timmy was not allowed to touch) while also sabotaging the grades of his sworn enemy, Corrina Corrina.
Underneath all the crazy detective hijinks, misbehavior and polar bear fluff is the story of a boy struggling to realize his own potential and of a single-parent family trying to make ends meet. It takes a clever new teacher and a moment of clarity from Timmy’s incredibly understanding mother to turn Timmy’s train wreck of a year into a celebration of achievement.
Timmy Failure is truly a book for all ages–older readers will love unraveling Timmy’s personal story and younger readers will be thoroughly entertained by his sloppy sleuthing skills.
Read an illustrated Q&A with author Stephan Pastis.
Watch a sneak peek of Timmy Failure, Book 2.