All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Stephan Pastis

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Stephan Pastis is a lawyer-turned-cartoonist, the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, and the author of the New York Times best selling Timmy Failure chapter book series for middle school kids.

Timmy Failure follows the exploits of the young “defective” detective and his polar bear friend, Total, as they solve crimes in their neighborhood. “I have an unreliable narrator,” Pastis says of the title character. “I have to remind myself every chapter: He gets everything wrong.”


A second-generation Greek-American, Pastis was raised in the sunny Los Angeles suburb, San Marino. He began drawing cartoons as a child and never stopped. Throughout his undergraduate years at the University of California at Berkeley and his law school studies at UCLA, Pastis kept cartooning. He came up with the first Pearls Before Swine character, Rat, during a law school class where he felt “hopelessly bored.”

Pastis practiced law for nine years (1993-2002), but he was always drawing on the side. In 1996, he started submitting his comics to newspapers. After a few years of rejections, Pastis created his signature strip Pearls Before Swine and began syndication in 1999. Pearls was an immediate hit, and began appearing on the web, in newspapers, and in many best-selling books.

Pastis includes Peanuts, Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Doonesbury, Dilbert and Get Fuzzy as significant influences on his work.
In 2013, Pastis published his first bok aimed a younger readers, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.  In the comedic novel, he writes about bumbling 11-year-old kid detective Timmy Failure and his lazy business partner, a polar bear named Total. The two run a detective agency, Total Failure Inc.

Follow Pastis on his Pearls Before Swine blog.

Selected Books

from Stephan Pastis

Beginning Pearls

Age Level: 9-12

Each section of the first in the Pearls Before Swine collections is organized by each of the strip’s characters: Rat, Goat, Zebra, Croc and Pig. Understated humor is evident in the line drawings and minimal language create an accessible, offbeat humor just right for middle schoolers.

Buy  Beginning Pearls

Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection

Age Level: 9-12

The cast of the Pastis syndicated comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, share adventures in this comic book collection of slightly irreverent, always funny strips.

Buy Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection

The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection

Age Level: 9-12

The Croc family is on a never-ending mission to eat Rat, Pig, Goat, and Zebra. Fans of graphic novels (or comic collections such as Calvin and Hobbes) and of the Timmy Failure series are sure to enjoy this collection.

Buy The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Age Level: 9-12

Timmy is an imaginative (if delusional) 11-year old who fancies himself a stellar detective with his sidekick, Total (a 1500-pound polar bear) at his side. Fans of heavily illustrated, almost graphic novels are sure to respond to the dark humor in this first of a series about Timmy and his antics

Buy Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done

Age Level: 9-12

Timmy Failure and his trusty sidekick, Total, are back for another adventure. Here, Timmy and Total are on the trail of a stolen globe.

Buy  Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done

Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection

Age Level: 9-12

Will Timmy and Total no longer be detecting partners? Readers will find out the fate of the dynamic duo in this fourth, funny, highly illustrated and certainly not final installment in the Timmy Failure series.

Buy  Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection

Timmy Failure: We Meet Again

Age Level: 9-12

In Timmy and Total Failure’s third adventure, the detective and his sidekick vie with their arch nemesis to find the mythical, magical, “Miracle Project.” The Miracle Project, they think, assures the finder of an “A” (with multiple pluses, of course) in all schoolwork.

Buy  Timmy Failure: We Meet Again