Tuesday 9 April 2013

Review: Timmy Failure - Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Meet Timmy Failure, founder of the "best" detective agency in town – Total Failure, Inc. With the help of his polar bear, Total, the clueless, comically self-confident Timmy already has plans for world domination. Plans that will make his mother rich and unpaid bills a thing of the past. And plans that will defeat Corrina Corrina, "The One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered". But she's not going away. Riotously funny, Timmy Failure is sure to have readers in stitches.

The massive success of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has led to pretty much every book for this age group that is written in the first person or in journal/diary format with accompanying illustrations being compared Jeff Kinney's books. Some compare very favourably (the brilliant Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill; The World of Norm by Jonathan Meres; the Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon), and now we can add Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made to that list.

Timmy Failure is about a small boy called (you guessed it) Timmy Failure, and yes, Failure is his unfortunate last name. Timmy is the founder, president and CEO of Total Failure, Inc., arguably (in Timmy's opinion) "the best detective agency in the town, probably the country. Perhaps the world." Timmy's partner in the agency is his pet polar bear Total (hence the agency's unfortunate name), but more about Total later.

Describing this book is not an easy task. Let's face it, Wimpy Kid is the diary of a not entirely likeable, whining, rude boy. But Timmy Failure is not quite so straightforward. And this is mainly down to Timmy's character. Timmy comes across as a deluded, bumbling fool who has a somewhat tenuous grip on reality, which means that his versions of events often differ to what actually happens in the story. As the story is written in the first person, we are therefore often left wondering just what on earth is going on in Timmy's mind. There is no outright suggestion that Timmy has Special Educational Needs, but for much of the story that is the assumption I made - he is uncooperative in lessons, he isolates himself from his peers during break time, and he has a very interesting way at looking at the world. And then there is Total, the polar bear. All I will say on this point is you will find yourself wondering throughout the story whether Total is real, or whether he is a figment of Timmy's imagination; sort of like an imaginary friend or comfort blanket.

Timmy Failure is a very funny book indeed, and there are moments that will have kids laughing out loud, and other moments, on a completely different level, that will have the same effect on adults. This book has so much more cross-generational appeal that any of the Wimpy Kid books, and will make excellent bedtime reading material.

I loved Timmy Failure, and I wonder whether a big part of that is the memories of how much I devoured Calvin and Hobbes when I was younger. There are a great deal of similarities, not least the Total/Hobbes element. I really hope there are more Timmy books to come from Stephan Pastis as I'm hooked. My thanks go to the lovely people at Walker Books for sending me a copy.

If you're not persuaded to give it a try from this review, head on over to to enter the world of Timmy Failure, and especially the video page at


  1. This sounds like so much fun! Great review :)

  2. I rather enjoy Pastis' daily comic strip, and was a bit surprised that this one had so many moments I didn't like. Much preferred Borgman and Scott's Chillax, but don't know if that's available where you are.

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