This is book number five of a popular series that mixes ‘scribbly’ illustrations with first person narratives. It’s been created in the style of the equally, if not even more popular, multi-story treehouse books and Diary of A Wimpy Kid.
Timmy and his mates this time remind me a little of those characters like Dennis The Menace from the old Beano comics – short, squat, simply drawn but instantly recognizable. Their characters arrive fully formed because they are based on every cartoon that gone before them. They, and Timmy, are instantly recognisable as subservient but rebellious kids who want to buck convection and the adult world – ‘because they say so!’. It’s an age-old ploy trick, used from everyone from Enid Blyton to RL Stine and the author of Captain Underpants.
The storyline picks up from number four – Sanitized for Your Protection (they all have names stolen from the adult world and repurposed). Banishment from Timmy’s calling as an amateur sleuth can’t keep this comically over-confident detective down. ‘This book was never meant to exist,’ claims the strapline.
No one needs to know the details. Just know this: there’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work by his over-protective mother. Not that that stops him! It’s a conspiracy of buffoons. He’s recorded everything in his private notebook but then his manuscript was stolen! So if this book gets out not only will he will be grounded for life but there could be even more dire consequences – beyond Timmy’s mom marrying Doorman Dave.
This is a great series, especially for getting new readers into chapter books. I recently read an essay by Neil Gaiman that argued that kids just need to read. Just give them everything you can get your hands on. Don’t judge the content for the maturity or the language. Just get them reading. I’d have to agree. This is a great ‘gateway drug’ into the bigger novels and it is superb, silly fun. I suspect Pastis might be a secret Monty Python fan because here and there are theses little surrealist moments.
So, if your child likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or any of the books of that ‘genre’ then I think they will love the Timmy Failure books. My 6- and 8-year-olds love them. That’s why it took me so long to write this. They’d read them and passed them around the classroom!
Reviewed by Tim Gruar
The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5)
by Stephan Pastis
Published by Walker Books