Timmy Failure is a classic antihero: Some readers will be drawn to the book because of him; others will be drawn to it in...

TIMMY FAILURE

WE MEET AGAIN

From the Timmy Failure series , Vol. 3

This is a book about very nice people. None of them is Timmy Failure.

The main character in a children’s book is often the kindest, most heroic person in the story, but not here. Timmy spends his time in class drawing insulting baseball cards with pictures of his classmates. Molly Moskins has a crush on Timmy. Her baseball card says, “Characteristics: Mismatched pupils. Smells like tangerine.” His best friend’s card says, “Boring.” In spite of that, his friends go out of their way to help him, and a good-natured teacher even asks if Timmy will draw him on a baseball card. (His card has only one word on the back: “Nosy.”) Some readers will lose patience with Timmy, and they may even wonder if the book would be better with someone else as the main character. But there are several moments where Timmy is unironically sweet. Anyone familiar with the previous books in the series may be surprised at the genuine sentiment in a few scenes. There are actual hugs, and there’s a deeply touching conversation with a very unlikely person. (Her baseball card says, “Occupation: Evil.”)

Timmy Failure is a classic antihero: Some readers will be drawn to the book because of him; others will be drawn to it in spite of him. (Comic mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7375-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Hilarious but haphazard.

THE GREAT PET HEIST

Five spunky pets go to extraordinary lengths to save themselves from abandonment.

The pets: wiener dog Butterbean; Walt, nee Lucretia, a secretive black cat; Oscar, a dignified mynah; and Marco and Polo, an exuberant pair of rats. The hapless owner: an elderly woman affectionately dubbed Mrs. Food. The incident: a bad fall (entirely Butterbean’s fault, though she hates to admit it) that lands Mrs. Food in the hospital and sends the pets scrambling to become “independently wealthy” lest they be removed from her apartment to the shelter. The accidental discovery of the wealthy Coin Man leads them to plot the “heist of the century” with the assistance of an octopus named Chad and vent-dwelling Wild Rat Wallace. Ecton tells the story from the pets’ perspectives, which, while impressively executed, proves to be this madcap adventure’s biggest shortcoming. The limited experience of the pets ensures that the human issues depicted—international crime, care of the elderly, deployed caregivers, deception of Child Protective Services—are treated more flippantly than their gravity merits. The scenes dealing with the kidnapping of a child are particularly dire; the character of the Coin Man feels almost too sinister for an otherwise lighthearted children’s novel. Yet lighthearted it is: Bantering dialogue, the distinct personalities of the pets (expressively illustrated by Mottram), and the whimsical premise make for an exciting caper. Mrs. Food and the Coin Man present white; the pets’ temporary caregiver has Korean heritage.

Hilarious but haphazard. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5536-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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