Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the first of a new series by Stephan Pastis. The second book will be released early next year. The style is similar to the Wimpy Kid series, with a sarcastic humor reminiscent of the Calvin and Hobbs comic strip. It is the case book of Timmy Failure, an aspiring detective who happens to still be in middle school and happens to have a polar bear as a pet (it’s not clear to me if the polar bear is real or imaginary). The book is full of drawings and scribbles to capture the feeling of reading Timmy’s actual case book. It is an entertaining book, with a larger-than-the-average-kid-book vocabulary and references to things that only adults would catch (one of the chapters is called “It Ain’t Me, Gabe”).
Although I am sure my kids would really enjoy this book, as a mom, I felt like Timmy’s negative view of his mother and his friends was more than I want my kids to identify with. It might work better as a read-aloud, so you would be ready to address any issues as you read about them.
My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 3 (Caution) for ages 8 and up.
I could not find a plot summary, so I will try to sum it up for you. Timmy Failure lives with his mother and a (possibly imaginary) polar bear named Total. Timmy and Total run the “Total Failure, Inc.” detective agency. Timmy believes he is on the brink of greatness with his business, but he is obviously wrong in all the cases he “solves.” Timmy’s friend, Rollo, who is very smart, usually has the solution to the case, but Timmy thinks he is an “idiot” and never agrees with him, but Rollo remains loyal. Timmy does not do well in school, and he intentionally flunks group tests just to get even with a girl who has a rival detective agency. Her name is Corrina Corrina, but he refers to her as the Beast or the Evil One (or the Weevil Bun). Timmy loses his mother’s off-limits Segway, and is convinced it was stolen. He has Rollo sneak into a bank, where Corrina Corrina has her detective agency, to see if she stole the Segway. Rollo ends up getting locked in the bank overnight, but Timmy is mostly disappointed because Rollo didn’t have an information when he got out. Timmy then has to lie to his mother to hide that he lost her Segway, so he tells her that he loaned it to a girl for a school play. The girl, Molly, turns out to have a crush on Timmy, and Timmy falsely concludes that Molly is responsible for all the cases he has been working on. Timmy has flunked too many tests, so he will have to repeat his grade again. A new teacher starts in Timmy’s class, and he gives Timmy assignments, but makes Timmy think they’re secret cases, and Timmy’s grade improve. Timmy’s mother has a boyfriend, Crispin, who has a Cadillac. Timmy pretends to drive the Cadillac into the house he thinks Corrina Corrina lives in, but then, thanks to Crispin, Timmy accidentally does drive the car into the house. In the end, Timmy finds the Segway had been towed by the police for parking in the wrong spot.
The book trailer definitely captures Timmy Failure.
If your kids enjoy the book, there is a website with some games, videos, and activities to continue enjoying Timmy Failure. Click here to check it out.
Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:
- Timmy lists obstacles to his greatness: “my mother, my school, my idiot best friend, my polar bear.”
- One of the founding principles of Total Failure, Inc. is “Keep Mom in the dark.” It is modified to “Keep Mom in the dark, but don’t be an idiot about it.” The second founding principle is “Don’t be like Rollo.” (Rollo is his best friend)
- Calls his teacher “Old Man Crocus.”
- Teacher calls Timmy Captain Thickhead.
- Tommy hides the fact that he uses his mother’s Segway.
- Timmy says the teacher “yaps.”
- Timmy plans to lie about the missing Segway.
- Timmy “really, really” hates Corrina Corrina.
- Timmy called Rollo’s mom and lied, saying Rollo was spending the night with Timmy, when he was actually locked in a bank vault.
- Crispin has an earring.
- Timmy steals Corrina’s Detective Log.
- Timmy talks about his “hypocritical mother.”
- Timmy kicks open the car door and runs away from Crispin, who looks for Timmy for 2 hours.
- Timmy steers a car while Crispin works the pedals.
- Timmy pretends to steal Crispin’s car and drive it into the house he thinks is Corrina’s house. At first, the reader thinks he did.
- Timmy sits in the car and revs the engine. Crispin encourages Timmy to rev the engine and put the car in drive to squeal the tires.
- Timmy ends up actually driving right into his old teacher’s living room.
- One mention of “Scotch.”
- Timmy says he “played the odds.”
- Timmy calls Rollo “my idiot best friend.”
- There are many instances of someone being called an “idiot.”
- Someone is called “the slob.”
- Rollo is called “rotund,” “fat bear,”
- Timmy writes a story for Total the polar bear that begins “The fat, juicy seal sat on the edge of the iceberg, stupid and unaware.”
- Someone is called “asinine.”
- Timmy calls Corrina “the Beast” and the “Evil One.”
- Timmy says “Rollo is a big, stupid traitor.”
- A chapter title is “Happiness is not a dumb blanket.”
- Timmy calls his mother “Furious Rage.”
- Someone says “lousy play.”
- Timmy says Molly has “bizarrely mismatched pupils.”
- Timmy says Rollo is “dull as sand.”
- Timmy says Corrina is a “butt kisser.”
- Rollo says “stupid plans” and “I look stupid” (when dressed as a Shasta daisy). Timmy says FLO doesn’t answer “stupid questions.” Timmy says “stupid schoolbooks,” “stupid bowling scores,” and “stupid picnic.” Timmy’s mom says “stupid car.”
- Timmy calls Rollo a “moronic amateur.”
- One use of “heck.”
- Timmy addresses letters to Corrina Corrina as “Where Evil Resides.”
- One of the chapters is titled “Raisin Heck.”
- Timmy calls his mother’s boyfriend “the bowling turkey” throughout the book.
- Timmy tells Crispin, his mother’s boyfriend, to shut his mouth.
- Corrina calls Timmy a “weird kid.” The new teacher tells Timmy he thinks he is “kind of a weirdo.” Crispin calls Timmy a “weirdo.”
- Someone is called a “lunkhead.”
- Timmy cries out “What the heck is that thing?”
- Someone is called an “ignoramus.”
- “Imbecile” is used twice.
- Crispin says “Why you rude little ___”
- “Kitty Heaven” is referenced.
- Halloween candy is mentioned.
- Timmy references works of art: “goddess rising from the sea” and “Adam touching the hand of God.”
- An elf is mentioned as a joke.
- Molly Moskins like Timmy, so she hides her shoes and socks and pretends they’re stolen to get his attention.
- Molly wants to hug Timmy. she tells him “I adore you” twice.
- Molly tells Timmy “You love me too!!!” and he is “smothered by kisses.”
- Total, the polar bear, is in love with Staci, another polar bear at the zoo. He stares at her, but she ignores him.
- Molly Moskins throws Hershey Kisses at Timmy, and says “kisses for my love.”
- Timmy wears a sumo suit, planning to tackle Corrina Corrina.
- Timmy wishes his mother would throw papers, kick over a chair, and set fire to a desk.
- Timmy mentions “Being surrounded by dingoes” and “buried alive” as preferably to facing his angry mom.
- Timmy thinks that FLO the librarian (a tough looking man) is really tough. He thinks Flo stands for “Misshelf my book and the blood may FLOw.” Timmy says he heard rumors of “Fingers lost in card-catalogue drawers.” “Word is he reads books on how to kill things. And how to dispose of dead bodies. And how to crush things with your fist.” (He was reading Emily Dickinson and “To Kill A Mockingbird.”)
- Timmy “checks for bombs.”
Potential Discussion Points:
- One of the founding principles of Total Failure, Inc. is “Keep Mom in the dark.” It is modified to “Keep Mom in the dark, but don’t be an idiot about it.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that is a good principle to live by? Did it work out for Timmy?
- The second founding principle of Total Failure, Inc. is “Don’t be like Rollo.” (Rollo is his best friend) Potential Discussion Point: Considering the fact that Rollo is usually right, is that a good principle for Timmy to live by?
- Timmy hides the fact that he uses his mother’s Segway and then plans to lie to hide the fact that he lost the Segway. His plan is to “lie, lie, lie.” Potential Discussion Point: How did that plan work for Timmy? Is it ever a good idea to lie to cover up disobedience or a mistake?
- Timmy calls his friends lots of mean names like “idiot” and “imbecile.” His teachers and his mom’s boyfriend call him names like “weirdo.” Potential Discussion Point: Why do you think Timmy calls everyone mean names? Do you think it helps him make friends?