Timmy Failure: We Meet Again

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Timmy Failure: We Meet Again Book Poster Image
Sentimental heart beats beneath goofy humor.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Several sophisticated vocabulary words, such as "mendacity," "ignoble," and "venal." Classmates' hand-wringing over a sprawling nature-collection project highlights issues of plagiarism, organization, teamwork, and valuing grades. Cultural references in chapter titles and in the text include The Odyssey, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Positive Messages

Friendship and understanding can be found in unlikely places. Plagiarism is a poor choice, for practical and ethical reasons. People who seem to be acting out with negative behavior may be hiding vulnerability, and reaching out with empathy can bridge deep divides. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two students explain why they wouldn't cheat on their project. They also offer Timmy friendship and support, despite his off-putting behavior. A child who confesses to stealing feels guilty. Timmy's mom is firm but loving and patient and is clearly concerned for her son. Worth noting: Many of the students and adults are good role models, but Timmy is not.

Violence

Cartoon violence: A baseball hits a boy in the head, and a gory story stars a giant flying Chihuahua that devours campers. 

 

Sex

Two kids kiss, and one encounters his mother kissing her date goodnight.

 

Language

A student is called a "kisser of butts."

 

Consumerism

Brand names mentioned include Roomba, KFC, and Fritos.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Timmy Failure: We Meet Again is the third in the popular comic graphic series by Stephan Pastis, creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip Pearls Before Swine. It's full of genuinely good-hearted kids and adults -- though Timmy seems morally rudderless. Thoughtful readers will pick up on clues as to why Timmy behaves so poorly. And if they don't, Timmy's supposed archrival points it out bluntly: He's lonely. He desperately wants to be appreciated, and he worries about anything coming between him and his mother, whether it's a sleepover or her latest boyfriend. The story tackles complicated issues, particularly school-wide rumors about plagiarism. Timmy's mom dates two men who play large roles in Timmy's life, and the story touches on her frustration at work. Timmy shares an unexpected kiss with a classmate, and he encounters his mom kissing her date. A few fat jokes involve an overweight friend who likes snacks and breaks something by sitting on it. The publisher recommends this series for ages 8 and up, but we recommend 10 and older because of the vocabulary and nuanced themes.

User Reviews

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Kid, 7 years old September 30, 2016

What's the story?

Timmy Failure is poised for greatness, certain he's on the brink of becoming the biggest name in international detective work. Achieving greatness would be easier if he wasn't on academic probation, with a hard-nosed principal just waiting for him to mess up. And if his mother wasn't making him play baseball -- and dating his coach. And if he didn't have to do a massive nature project with his archrival. He'd solve all these problems, however, if he could get his hands on the legendary Miracle Report, a nature project that earned an A+++++. It would secure his position as the greatest detective ever … and perhaps he could save his grade. 

Is it any good?

TIMMY FAILURE: WE MEET AGAIN stands out in a crowded field of funny graphic novels targeted to boys by infusing the story with moving, tender touches. It's very funny, full of clever jokes and outrageous scenarios, and enjoyable to read. But there's more going on here: Timmy propels himself through life (often riding on his mom's Roomba) with little consideration for others, and it's remarkable to see how much classmates and adults in his life try to connect with him. Author-cartoonist Stephen Pastis deploys a subtlety that's lacking in other books in this genre -- Timmy may be the star here, but the people around him are living their own stories, and Pastis offers glimpses into their struggles and successes.

Like Greg in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Nate in the Big Nate books, Timmy isn't always a likable hero: He's rude to friends and mean to imagined enemies, and he strives to be the center of attention. He creates conflict where there is none. Sensitive kids may understand and relate to his sometimes odd behavior. Pastis reveals the vulnerability beneath Timmy's prickly persona, offering a lesson in empathy amid the engaging humor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Timmy behaves the way he does, bragging and being hostile and insistent on doing things his way. Do you think he's a good kid or just trouble?

  • How does the Timmy Failure series compare with other popular graphic novels, such as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate series?

  • What would you do if you came across the Miracle Report? Parents might want to read our article on high-tech cheating in schools.

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