A loonily intellectual alternative to that wimpy kid.

READ REVIEW

TIMMY FAILURE

NOW LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE

From the Timmy Failure series , Vol. 2

If Inspector Clouseau were in grade school, he’d be Timmy Failure.

Timmy has a secret admirer. He knows this, as he’s received a note, covered in little hearts, that says, “You have a secret admirer!” His friends and relatives assume it’s from Molly Moskins, since she follows him around saying, “Doesn’t my Timmykins look handsomeful?”—and since another love note is signed, “LOVE MM (These are my initials).” Timmy assumes, with his typical logic, that the hearts are a coded death threat. “Think,” he says to his great-aunt. “The heart is what keeps you alive.” He has reason to be suspicious. He has very few admirers, partly because he keeps accusing his friends of crimes—especially Molly Moskins. In spite of that, they remain remarkably faithful and even help him solve the central mystery of the book, which loosely involves a detective contest at his school. Readers who found Timmy hard to take in his first book won’t like him—or the terrible puns—any better here. (One chapter is titled “The Lying, the Watch, and the Poor Globe.”) But his many fans will speed through the pages, and they’ll love Pastis’ illustrations, which feature an adorable polar bear shaped like a bowling pin. They may even adopt Timmy’s motto: “When you lose hope, find it.”

A loonily intellectual alternative to that wimpy kid. (Comic mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6051-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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