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)