Monday, February 16, 2015

The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda

A Jungle Noir
The Endangered Files Volume 1
by Jake G. Panda
Woolly Family Studios
Middle Grade Mystery
180 pages
ages 8+

If you're looking for trouble, you've found it. The name's Jake G. Panda, and trouble seems to follow me wherever I go. I work in the protection racket at a flophouse for endangered critters called the Last Resort. I'm the hotel snoop. The resident fuzz. It's my job to keep these guests safe and outta harm's way. This is the first of my many misadventures. A wild and woolly mystery involving a lost suitcase, a green bird, and a bunch of double-crossing animals. I'm calling this jungle noir The Case of the Cursed Dodo. This hilarious first installment of The Endangered Files follows Jake, a hardboiled panda detective, and an unusual cast of endangered creatures on a globe-trotting adventure that will appeal to young and old alike.


This is written in a completely different style than is usually seen in mysteries for the 8+ age group. It feels as if the reader is placed on the set of a movie, and watches the entire sequences being filmed. The setting is clever, a hotel for rare/extinct animals, and the detective is a Panda with a very solid 1940/1950's feel.

I really enjoyed the descriptions and actions in this, especially of the animals. Yep, the actors/actresses in this mystery are all animals, but they don't have the overly cute feeling that many animal stories tend to fall into. The author blends these characters into the setting so naturally (humanizes them) that it's easy to picture the scenes happening around you. And although the animals take on human characteristics, they're peppered with the familiar small habits and details which makes each creature distinct.

The mystery itself has a nice, underlying tension from page one. I think a lot of that has to do with the old-fashioned, detective feel. I had no problem picturing the Panda detective in a traditional office, with his feet up on an over-filled desk and a black, old-fashioned phone. But then, the fantastic illustrations sprinkled through the pages also support this visualisation.

Summed up, this is a wonderful mystery for kids, and something they won't have seen everyday. They'll either love it or hate it...but I'm betting on the first of these.

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