by Stephan Pastis
First sentence: “It’s harder to drive a polar bear into somebody’s living room than you’d think.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Timmy Failure is the founder, president, and CEO of Total Failure, Inc. Detective Agency (“We won’t fail, despite what the names says”), the only other employee being his pet polar bear, Total. (Hence the name. Total insisted.) They haven’t had many cases, but as long as his friend Rollo or The Evil One (her name is Corrina Corrina) don’t interfere (they’re always interfering), he just knows he’ll become Famous. He’s got the brains for it.
Except… well… Let’s just say that The Diary of a Wimpy Kid made dorks loveable. And in some ways, this buys into the whole loveable dork thing. Timmy is full of bravado, but it’s not loveable dork as much as Completely Clueless and Delusional.
See — and I’m not sure kids will get this while reading it — but there’s an undertone (I’m not quite sure it’s intentional or not) of pure Pathetic here. Timmy’s younger than Greg is (9 or so), and his litany of things going wrong is long. He’s failing school, because he doesn’t want to work. He has to move into an apartment because his mother (his father isn’t explained: Divorce? Death?) can’t hold onto the house. His mother is dating someone he really doesn’t like. He’s no good at catching things. He obsesses over Corrina Corrina. He’s friends with a polar bear, but you’re never quite sure if it’s real or if it’s imaginary. I felt bad for the kid.
But, I do have to admit that I laughed sometimes. Sometimes, Timmy was funny in his pathetic delusions. And Pastis does capture those delusions quite well with his text and art. In fact, my favorite thing about this was the drawings. If you’re at all familiar with Pearls Before Swine, then you’ll know what to expect. More often than not, the illustrations are what made me laugh.
I’m not quite sure how kids are going to react to this, or if they’re going to eat this up the way they do Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I was kind of lukewarm about it all, but maybe that’s because I’m an adult. I’m curious to read the next volume, though, just to see where Pastis takes Timmy’s story.