Review Detail

Is it the End? Ask Total.
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
5.0
As Christmas approaches, Timmy is ready to give up his detective business, but he has one last mission: to help Total find his brother. He's also not entirely happy to be living with Doorman Dave, since his mother married him. When he is assigned a film project for class, Timmy goes into full egotistical mode and writes a script all about himself. He is challenged by Molly, who thinks the script is not happy enough, and Tom John, who is made director by the teacher and who disagrees with Timmy's artistic vision. While searching for a bar where he can stage a scene from the book, Timmy encounters his birth father, with whom he last had a less than successful encounter in Florida. The movie is one train wreck after another, and working on it puts Timmy at odds even with his best friend Rollo. After much faxing and investigation, Timmy does manage to locate Total's brother, and soon the bear is leaving. Can Timmy survive the combined stress of keeping his father's location a secret, dealing with the school play, and losing his trusted (if potentially imaginary) companion?
Good Points
Filled with jokes, odd names, and improbably situations, the Timmy Failure books are fun romps into the world of the unpredictable. Even after reading all seven, I'm still not entirely sure if Total is a real polar bear, or just something Timmy has made up! Readers who enjoy the vaguely film noir style of Rylander's The Fourth Stall, Hale's Chet Gecko mysteries and Ferraiolo's The Big Splash will revel in Timmy's attempts at running a detective agency, and his egomaniacal style complements this nicely.

The real draw for many readers will be Pastis' illustrations, which are similar in style to his Pearls Before Swine comic strips. This is one series that my students who won't read anything but Wimpy Kid books have been eagerly checking out.

While not a personal favorite of mine (IS the polar bear real? Seriously, this is a big problem for me! Plus, the weird names always bug me.), this series is a great addition to the list of middle grade Notebook Novels that includes Berger's Lyttle Lies, Tashjian's Einstein the Hamster books, and Ignatow's Popularity Papers.
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