Book Club Pick: Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

15798116Summary (from Goodreads):

Meet “detective” Timmy Failure, star of the kids’ comedy of the year. Created by New York Times best-selling cartoonist Stephan Pastis.

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure — the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile — Timmy’s mom’s Segway — and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can’t carry out a no-brainer spy mission. From the offbeat creator of Pearls Before Swine comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a caper whose peerless hilarity is accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets you snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further — or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment — making this a comics-inspired story (the first in a new series) that truly stands apart from the pack.

The Feathery Revenge

Review: Timmy Failure is adorably illustrated and full of sharp humor. If you like Pastis’ other comics – AND I LOVE THEM – you’re going to enjoy this book.

Timmy is an utterly clueless and useless detective. Most of what Timmy knows about detecting seems to come from old noir movies, tv cop shows, and his own wild imagination. The pictures serve as the highlight of the book and imbue the story with a ton of humor. I LOVED the side characters, who really shine in this series. Total the polar was adorably clueless and loyal. His penchant for trash scraps, seals, and Rice Krispie treats just made him more endearing. In short: I want one. And Flo the librarian was a COMPLETE AND TOTAL WIN. I cackled when I heard the origin of his name and just loved his overall look. Flo is a prime example of the modern librarian we all someday hope to meet (and be).

I had serious trouble liking Timmy as the story went on. I get he’s a kid, so a certain amount of self-centeredness is to be expected. But his self-involvement inures him to the problems other have that may have. This started to really irk me about two-thirds of the way through into the story. By this point, I got the impression that we’re supposed to laugh at Timmy’s continual poor handling of his unfortunate situations but I had a hard time finding the humor . Maybe I’m older than the intended demographic and/or just a grumpy old codger.

Overall: An adorable and hilarious set of drawings with a simple if somewhat awkward story. The drawings and the subject matter seem good starting place for older children with good vocab skills or the YA crowd. Despite his many faults, Timmy wields an extensive and hilarious vocabulary.

Rating: 3/5 stars 

Quiet Like a Ninja

Review:  I expected to like Timmy Failure.  Kid goes around solving mysteries that might not quite work out.  The premise sounded entertaining.  However…  I did not enjoy this book.  My favorite part was Timmy’s new teacher and meeting Flo, the librarian.  Flo is genius.  But Timmy himself drove me nuts.  Maybe it’s because I’m adult, but I could not connect to kid Timmy at all.  And with all the bad things going on in Timmy’s life that he is completely oblivious to, reading the book just felt awkward not funny.  I wanted to believe that Timmy was just hiding his feelings, but I don’t really think that.  He really lives in a fantasy world that just made me kinda sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a rich imagination, but Timmy falls more into delusional than head-in-the-sky-dreamer. I was impressed by his large vocabulary and the illustrations add a fun element to the story.  Without them any comedy I got from the book would have been lost.

There is nothing in the book that feels uplifting, and I think that is what really bothered me.  There are problems for Timmy to solve, but there is no tension, no feeling that anything has consequences or meaning that would create an emotional attachment to the story or the characters.  Not even when Timmy starts getting good grade and might not have to repeat his grade.  (Because his teacher tricked him into studying)  Or when he gets his polar bear back.  (Yes you read that correctly he has a polar bear, but I’m guessing this is kind of a Calvin and Hobbes situation)  However, Calvin’s antics made him kinda crazy but endearing and cool.  Timmy… again I just felt sad for him.  If you want mysteries, zany humor, wacky illustrations, told in a diary or case-study fashion I suggest reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger instead.

Rating: 2/5

The Royal We

Review: I lovelovelove Pearls Before Swine (as does The Feathery Revenge; she has an awesome Pig plushie used for stress cuddling during episodes of Downton Abbey and Avatar: The Last Airbender), so I was expecting to love Timmy Failure, too. And I really did like it! But I read Betsy Bird’s review at Fuse #8 before I read the book, which made me read past the humor to feel bad for Timmy. I couldn’t seem to take off my grown-up glasses and simply enjoy it as a funny book about an inept kid detective (which is my failing, not the book’s!). I plan to talk it up to kids at the library this summer, though, because it is hilarious–especially if you’re in the mood for schadenfreude, Segways, and  (imaginary?) garbage-eating polar bears.

Rating: 3/5

Combined Rating: 2.67/5

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