Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made Book Poster Image
Offbeat imagination rules in funny, poignant graphic novel.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Though Timmy basically refuses to try to succeed in school, Timmy Failure readers will get an impression of what (other) students learn in middle school.

Positive Messages

Kids can learn from Timmy's example that lying to cover up mistakes creates more problems than solutions. There's also an implicit message that if you appeal to a reluctant student on his or her level, and turn learning into an activity the kid can relate to, you can stimulate the kid's interest in schoolwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Timmy's struggling single mom sets a loving, honest example for her son; she's candid with him about their difficult financial situation and downsizes their home, but she continues to make his schooling and his feelings priorities. Timmy's teacher, Mr. Jenkins (whom Timmy calls New Guy), appeals to Timmy's interests and imagination to encourage Timmy's success in school.


Not surprisingly, this graphic novel from an acclaimed comic strip author includes plenty of cartoon violence. Frisbees and balls bounce off of Timmy's head wherever he goes, and when an out-of-control Cadillac plows through a wall and into a teacher's living room, Timmy walks away without a scratch.


One of Timmy's female classmates has a crush on him. She tells him she adores him and pelts his bedroom window with Hershey's Kisses. In one chapter, she hugs him.


Lots of candy brands are mentioned early in the book: Kit Kat, Twix, Mars, Almond Joy, Snickers, Abba-Zaba, and Hershey's Kisses. The lunch lady gives Timmy Rice Krispies Treats. Timmy's mom dates a man who drives a Cadillac, and they bring a six-pack of Coke on a picnic. Timmy borrows his mom's Segway.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is a graphic novel about a clueless 11-year-old boy who fancies himself a great detective. It's a funny, off-the-wall yet poignant look at the life of an unusual kid who's way longer on imagination than on ability to focus. The first children's book from Stephan Pastis, creator of the popular Pearls Before Swine comic strip and the bestselling Pearls compilation, Larry in Wonderland, it contains several instances of cartoon violence (Timmy being pelted by balls and Frisbees, a non-injury car crash), and Timmy lies to his mom on occasion.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byRay C. October 12, 2017

stupid and irresponsible

describes the book as well as the main character. The character is a delusional pathological liar whose mother is an irresponsible absentee parent. It is presen... Continue reading
Adult Written byJohn M. December 14, 2017

Good book

Everyone that my me and my kids know reads timmy failure they do it thereselfs. I actully think its ok. It isnt to violent and to bad about talking about drugs... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybowielegacy November 22, 2019

Fabulous and Hilarious

This book really sparked my brother's love of reading. It's brilliant combination of cartoons and humour almost rivals Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. Kids wil... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bysuperghost July 1, 2018

it is good

The humor is really nice but not all youngsters may understand the humor for timmy frequently uses big words (no, not bad words just word they wont understand)... Continue reading

What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Timmy Failure fancies himself the world's greatest detective. He's not. But he does have the world's laziest, most unusual business partner: a 1,500-pound polar bear named Total, which may or may not be a figment of Timmy's extremely offbeat, overactive imagination. In his attempts to solve cases involving missing Halloween candy or stolen shoes, Timmy -- head of the Total Failure detective agency -- loses his mom's Segway and blunders his way into a series of mishaps. He also fails to perform acceptably in school. The larger mystery becomes: How will Timmy recover the missing Segway, and can he improve his grades enough to keep from being held back a grade?

Is it any good?

There's a charm to this off-the-wall, slapstick graphic novel that makes it almost as poignant as it is funny. Timmy's (often self-created) problems and his long-suffering mother are realistic and touching; readers will worry about his grades and his blunders. On the whole, Stephen Pastis has created a sweet, hilarious set of oddball characters that will make readers crack up, and will help unusual kids feel "normal."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about graphic novels. Why do you think theyr'e so popular? What others have you read?

  • Some people have compared this book to Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. How is Timmy Failure like Wimpy Kid, and how is it different?

  • Read the author's Pearls Before Swine comic strip in the newspaper, and then try making your own comic.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and humor

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