Cartoonist pens new children's detective story

Published: Saturday, March 2 2013 1:45 p.m. MST

TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE,” by Stephan Pastis, Candlewick Press, $14.99, 294 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” is an historical record of the 11-year-old owner of Total Failure Inc., the best detective agency in town and perhaps in the nation. (Timmy is quick to remind readers that his last name was once Fayleure. “But somebody changed it.”)

Timmy works with a lazy business partner named Total, a polar bear who found his way from a home in the melting Artic ice and now enjoys cat’s dishes and garbage cans. Structured as a journal focused on solving inane crimes — Gunnar’s missing candy, shoes that seem to have disappeared and Mom’s Segway, Failuremobile — the reader is privy to the “mistakes” Timmy makes at each turn.

The chapters aim for a “Wimpy Kid" or “Wonkenstein” format with pencil sketches, dialogue balloons and humor surrounding an eccentric protagonist. Timmy’s journal entries reflect his fumbling attempts at everything and yet his self-confidence makes him the center of the world. Much of the humor is found in his misguided sophistication and business-savvy language such as when he talks to his mother in "teleconferences" or when admitting the logic of a mistake, “I have a scalawag bent on my destruction. And she is perpetrating unconscionable falsehoods.”

The inclusion of a single mother struggling with bills, a friend Rollo Tookus who is obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd,” a “four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered” and other funny characters keeps Timmy’s story from succumbing to a predictable conclusion.

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” a roll-call of romps and misadventures, is the first children’s book for Stephan Pastis, creator of the acclaimed comic strip "Pearls Before Swine." He enrolled in law school but found himself “sitting in class bored, sketching the character Rat who would later become a mainstay of all his comic strips.”

The pencil sketches, coupled with lighthearted narrative, leave lots of openings for many more adventures yet to come in the future for Timmy Failure.

If you go ...

What: Stephan Pastis book signing

When: Thursday, March 7, 6 p.m.

Where: Anderson-Foothill Library, 1135 S. 2100 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, www.slcpl.lib.ut.us

Email: marilousorensen@ymail.com

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