*Serious Face Review*

Stephan Pastis, of the acclaimed comic strip “Pearls Before Swine,” has ventured into the world of children’s books with “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” If you’re wondering whether the book is as funny as his comics, consider the opening line:

“It’s harder to drive a polar bear into someone’s living room than you’d think.”

“Mistakes Were Made” chronicles the adventures of aspiring detective Timmy Failure, CEO of Total Failure, Inc., who is convinced that he and his polar bear sidekick are on the verge of becoming a Fortune 500 company. Too bad he’s having trouble solving the baffling cases currently on his plate, including missing Halloween candy, a dead hamster and an international shoe thief.

However, nothing is able to shake Timmy’s confidence. He goes through the entire book convinced he is the smartest person in the world, despite his .6 GPA (if he rounds up). You soon realize that Timmy never quite grasps the big picture, but you can still put together an accurate sequence of events through his observations and the contents of his detective notebook.

He is adorably self-absorbed and arrogant, but doesn’t come off in a negative way. It only makes you want to cheer for him more, especially because he has the genuinely good intention of wanting to be a millionaire so he can hire his mother, thus ensuring she doesn’t have to worry about bills anymore.

The book hits its main plotline when the Failuremobile (a.k.a. Timmy’s mother’s Segway) goes missing. Knowing he is in a heap of trouble should he be found out, Timmy launches an investigation. He becomes convinced one of his classmates, who runs a competing detective agency, is responsible for the theft.

Using every method he can think of, Timmy attempts to infiltrate “The Evil One’s” life, all without ever wanting to acknowledge her name. Early on in the book, this character is even drawn with a black box over her face. However, there might be more to her than Timmy realizes, and he unwittingly discovers details about her personal life during his investigation. He doesn’t understand the significance, but readers – particularly parents – will be able to see that “The Evil One” may not have a happy home life.

Readers will be able to identify with Rollo Tookus, Timmy’s friend whose only wish is to get good grades so he can get into “Stanfurd.” Poor Rollo gets dragged along on the investigation and also has to put up with Timmy at school. Readers will cringe with sympathy for Rollo after seeing how Timmy makes a picture out of the multiple-choice bubbles on their group test, dooming them to fail.

Pastis’s drawings adorn every page of the book, and they are every bit as lovable as his “Pearls” comics. From Timmy’s signature scarf to the ever-slitted eyes of “The Evil One,” each character has a fun, unique characteristic.

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” is full of laughs from start to finish, but there are a few sweet moments tossed in for good measure. It has a sharp wit that will please adult fans of “Pearls Before Swine,” and short chapters and a quick pace will draw younger readers in. Fans of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” are sure to like “Timmy Failure.”

So put on your distinctive scarf, strap in and prepare for greatness!

Author: Stephan Pastis