Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

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Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
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Release Date
February 26, 2013
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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.

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Delusion Has Never Been Funnier
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I don’t even know where to begin with Stephan Pastis’s “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” and that’s such a good thing! There are too many wonderful things about this book to count, so in true Timmy fashion, I’ll just write down my observations that stood out the most to me.

“Timmy Failure” follows eleven-year-old Timmy who has founded his own detective agency with his polar bear best pal, Total. Yes, Failure is Timmy’s last name, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching for multi-billion dollar success. Timmy and Total take on clients at Total Failure, Inc. to solve local mysteries in the hopes of growing into an international detective agency.

What stands out the most about this book is the humor. Each short chapter is essentially a joke, moving on to the next chapter after the punch line is delivered. Most of these revolve around Timmy’s delusional confidence and convoluted logic. Teleconferences with his mother (and potential employee) at the kitchen table and accusations of guilt toward clearly innocent people had me laughing harder than I have in Middle Grade in a long time.

What’s beautiful about this humor is that it is used to soften the blow of potentially dramatic events in Timmy’s life. His mother is making so little money that they have to move out of their home and into a small one-bedroom apartment. Timmy’s father is also absent from their family, and Timmy’s mom has started dating a new man that Timmy scathingly calls the “bowling turkey.” Timmy handles these problems by focusing on his cases, giving young readers ideas on alternatives to sulking and lashing out when obstacles are thrown their way.

My absolute favorite part of Pastis’s book is the mystery behind Total the polar bear. It’s never quite made clear whether Total is in fact a real polar bear that pals around with Timmy, or if Total is an imaginary friend Timmy has created during this difficult time in his life. There are references that Timmy is playing games and that Total isn’t real, but then there are also times where Total’s actions and environment are so intricately described that you think he must be real, and this is just a world in which polar bears hanging with children isn’t that odd. It feels very reminiscent of the whole Stewie debate in “Family Guy” of whether or not anyone can hear baby Stewie talking besides Brian, the family’s dog.

Whether or not Total is real, his Rice-Krispies-Treat-and-trash-eating antics are hilarious and the perfect balance to Timmy’s endearingly delusional outlook on life. “Timmy Failure” is no failure at all, and I’m practicing my own detective skills right now to find out when the next book will be released.
Good Points
Hilarious jokes that never disappoint.
Funny approach to life obstacles that young readers can learn from.
An interesting is he/is he not real debate regarding a polar bear sidekick.
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Beware the polar bear
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Timmy lives with his mother and his polar bear, Total, and is obsessed with his budding detective agency, Total Failure. (His last name is Failure.) He hopes to grow his business so that it makes a lot of money so that his mother can stop stressing about bills, but he is not getting many jobs since the evil Corinna Corinna is undercutting his business, aided by her father's vast wealth. Timmy has some helpful people in his life, like the playground aide, Dondi, his mother, and his friends Rollo and Molly, even though he doesn't like them. At least they are better than Mr. Crocus, his evil old teacher, Crispin Flavius, his mother's boyfriend, and even Total, who cause enough destruction that he is sent to a zoo. Timmy doesn't do well in school because he is more interested in his agency, his mother's hours are cut and they have to move to an apartment, and his mother's Segway has gone missing.
Good Points
I love Pearls Before Swine and was definitely looking forward to this. The illustrations are great, and I think students will be quick to pick it up. Fabulous beginning: "It's harder to drive a polar bear into somebody's living room that you'd think."
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