Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Timothy Failure: Mistake Were Made

Timothy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
Stephen Pastis
Candlewick, 2013  304 pgs.
Grades 3-7
Timothy Failure Series #1

Pastis follows the trend offering a comic/chapter hybrid walking in teh footprints as the widely popular "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. Timmy and his pet polar bear, Total, operate "Total Failure, Inc, a detective agency serving the young folks in town. Timmy's inability to solve cases doesn't seem to slow him down as he searches for clues, bumbles into situations, looses expensive equipment belonging to his mother, offends his friends, and drives his teacher's crazy. He is focused only on the detective business and puts zero effort into school work and other people's problems. In fact Timmy lives fully in his own reality, oblivious to the troubles of others, including his mother who is suffering financially and must downgrade their living arrangements. When one misstep after another leads Timmy to losing the agency and his partner Total, all seems hopeless. A dastardly plan involving his mother's dreaded boyfriend's beloved car and the house seeming belonging to his main competition and arch enemy brings the action to a thrilling climax, where Timmy crashes both literally and figuratively. Somehow, once the pieces fall back in place, Timmy comes out on top, agency restored, although downsized, and Total back home where he belongs, leading readers to the second installment in the series: Now Look What You've Done.

A bit more sophisticated than Wimpy Kid, Pastis follows the same basic format: seemingly child-drawn comics on every page helping to advance the story, wide margins, short chapters, humorous situations involving cringe-worthy moments. What Pastis brings to the table is an unreliable narrator, who is either the most creative child on the planet or certifiably insane. Or both. I can't decide if this book is hilarious or disturbing. Young readers, especially boys, will find it hilarious. Reading it as a grown-up I just wanted to get professional help for Timmy. As a detective he gets the wrong answer every time. His best friend Rollo, who is funny in his own right, always knows the answer, but Timmy disregards Rollo's opinions. Kids will love that they figure out the culprits before Timmy does. Timmy is fearless, not afraid of embarrassment, and could care less about things regular children are accountable for: grades and other people's feelings. Pastis lets the reader know in a sneaky way what is really going on, adding dimension to the story and training new readers to look beyond the surface of a book. His humor is sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle, but always there, offering something for everyone. The cartoon-like illustrations are plentiful and add to the story. Kids will love this book and will jump right into the next three installments in the series, the most recent of which was released last October. Personally, I would like to buy his long-suffering mother a much needed drink.

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