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Children's Book Review: 'Timmy Failure' by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

by Stephan Pastis

Candlewick Press, 2013


Timmy Failure is sort of a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Adventures of Jo Schmo.
Timmy fancies himself to be a detective and hires himself out to solve mysteries with his sidekick and pet polar bear, Total (Failure).

The thing is, Timmy is not very sharp. He examines the obvious clues in each case and comes up with some crazy outrageous explanations for what might have happened, while his rival and arch-nemesis Corrina Corrina solves all the crimes. Timmy spends an inordinate amount of time filing complaints against Corrina Corrina with the Better Detective Bureau, while she seems to be only marginally aware of his existence.

At school, his teacher pairs him up in a team with the smart kids in the hopes that their intelligence will rub off on him, but he winds up sabotaging their success on standardized tests by drawing designs on the scantron forms, and infuriating his only friend, Rollo, who is obsessed with the idea of getting into a good college and is being tutored by Corrina Corrina (who Timmy refers to as “the evil one” - which somehow, over the course of the story, morphs into “the weevil bun.”)

The humor is generally on that level throughout the book. The most entertaining part of the story is probably the comic-style drawings on most pages, which are reminiscent of those in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Unfortunately, unlike Greg Heffley (the main character in Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Timmy Failure never really learns from his mistakes and remains rather unlikable throughout the book.

That said, my nine-year old daughter saw this book sitting on the coffee table and promptly stole it away to her “reading den” from which I had to retrieve it to write my book review. I asked her what she thought about it, and she laughed at how foolish Timmy was and then commented on all of the big words that he uses (which is true, and totally incongruous with his character as a dullard).

Upper elementary school students will likely be drawn in by the cartoony feel of this book and may not be too troubled by the main character's inconsistencies and lack of redeeming qualities. It's a light, fast, and easy read, well-suited to summer vacation.


Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine and Larry in Wonderland now brings his signature wit to younger readers. He lives in Northern California.


Renée McGrath

Renée Vaillancourt McGrathhas worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Renee McGrath is the Sunday morning program host on Montana Public Radio and is a rotating host for Morning Classics. She writes children's and young adult book reviews for The Write Question blog every Tuesday, and also helps out in the Development Office and with web site editing when needed.
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