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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Since the dawn of the Wimpy Kid empire the novel as journal by the main character has become a publishing mainstay. A new series pops up every few months, but after I read the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid I decided that the genre as a whole was probably not for me. Though there are stand outs, I really enjoyed James Patterson's first Middle School book and Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is amazing (though written for a much older audience). But when I received a copy of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, quite frankly, it looked adorable and genuinely funny so I had to try it.

Timmy's story is part Wimpy Kid with Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts undertones and it is all funny. Timmy Failure was written by Pearl Before Swine author Stephan Pastis (which may have been another reason I had to give it a try) so his debt to the comic strip greats comes honestly. This was a book for kids written with adult readers in mind. The chapter titles reference pop culture that kids will not understand and while it does not put a damper on their enjoyment of the novel it definitely works to increase the giggles on the adult's side.

Timmy Failure is a struggling detective. He's struggling for quite a few reasons, he's just not a very good detective for one but he also has a rice crispy treat loving polar bear that functions as his partner and secretary. I appreciate children's books that work to help kids learn something and Timmy Failure absolutely does that. Timmy is undoubtedly an odd kid. He is a loner and doesn't understand the other kids, he is struggling in school, and his single mom is having money troubles. Not only are these real things that kids go through, wrapping them up in a humorous missive makes them easier for the kids who haven't been through them to empathize. And empathy is a hard lesson that bears repeating.

This novel is peopled with characters to learn from. The people Timmy encounters are kind and genuine. Even as Timmy misinterprets many of their actions, the reader is learning to listen to others and that getting overly involved in ourselves and our on causes can make us lose sight of our friends and the people trying to help us. I say all of this to the adult readers of this blog, but what is great about this book is that what you need to tell kids is that it is funny. The important stuff is under the surface it works its way into the minds of its young readers without ever making them feel that they are learning a lesson.

Stephan Pastis' Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is a novel to give your 8 to 13 year old. Tell them how funny it is, read it together, you can enjoy the jokes and know that in the long run you will both be the better for it.

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