Timmy may not be one of the great children’s-book characters, but he has greatness in him. Just like all of us.

TIMMY FAILURE

MISTAKES WERE MADE

The great children’s-book characters can get on your nerves. Eloise is a little spoiled. The Cat in the Hat refuses to listen to anyone else. Timmy Failure would be easy to actually hate.

When he’s taking a group test, he brings down everyone’s score by drawing dot-to-dot pictures with the Scantron bubbles. When his teacher isn’t looking, Timmy goes to the world map and draws the future offices of his detective agency, with a branch on every major continent. Timmy has already started solving crimes. His business is aptly called Total Failure, Inc. His neighbor Gunnar hires him to find some missing candy. Gunnar’s brother is sitting in bed, with chocolate stains on his face. Candy wrappers are strewn all around. Timmy is stumped, though, because the brother has an alibi: He was eating candy. Timmy is a classic comic type: the person who’s arrogant for no good reason. But Pastis keeps him from becoming unbearable by turning him into Walter Mitty. He’s a lonely boy whose mother is dating a bowler, and he dreams of being the world’s greatest detective. Who wouldn’t? The Pearls Before Swine cartoonist’s frequent black-and-white illustrations help to cast Timmy’s adventure in an appropriately ironic light.

Timmy may not be one of the great children’s-book characters, but he has greatness in him. Just like all of us. (Comic mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6050-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An exciting story of school life, friends, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern...

FUZZY MUD

When fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh-grader Marshall Walsh cut through the woods to avoid school bully Chad Hilligas, they unwittingly set off a chain of events that threatens global catastrophe.

What exactly is that pool of mud that Tamaya notices in the woods—gooey, tarlike muck with a sheen of fuzzy, yellow-brown scum on top? Whatever it is, it comes in handy when Chad attacks Tamaya and Marshall, and Tamaya scoops up a handful and shoves it into his face. But that evening, she notices a terrible rash on her hands, and Chad doesn’t show up for school the next day. Revealed in interspersed testimony from secret Senate hearings is the fact that scientists have been researching Biolene, a viable alternative to gasoline using artificial, high-energy microorganisms. The threat of mutations and “frankengerms” had been considered negligible, but now a walk in the woods has led to the quarantine of the whole Pennsylvania town as an epidemic has spread, the airport and railroad stations have been closed, and the Pennsylvania National Guard has been called in. Sachar’s tale is slim, as is the delineation of character and setting, but the fast-paced plot and enough science to give the illusion of substance will have readers racing through the pages.

An exciting story of school life, friends, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern science. (Speculative fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74378-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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