The First Case (Pup Detectives) – Felix Gumpaw, illustrated by Walmir Archanjo

     The First Case (Pup Detectives) – Felix Gumpaw, illustrated by Walmir Archanjo. Little Simon, 2021. 9781534474956

Format: Uncorrected proof

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

 Genre: comic book mystery

 What did you like about the book?  Pawston Elementary School has a diverse animal student body and faculty – similarly sized parrots, elephants, monkeys and sharks sit side by side in classrooms with hippos and cheetahs for teachers.  But when the school is beset by a series of school supply thefts and an apparent lunch bandit is roaming the cafeteria, it is up to a mismatched group of dog detectives to solve the case and corner the criminal.  

With character names such as Rider Woofson (the narrator and lead P.I.) and Rora Gooddog, readers should know to expect a lot of groan-inducing jokes from this send-up of dime-store detective novels (even from the worn look of the cover).  There is a lot of action, and several subplots, and archetypal school story characters like a nerdy inventor, a bully who redeems himself at the end, and a stern principal with a heart of gold. It’s a cute premise but there is just too much going on in this one – it would have been better broken up into shorter books.

Anything you did not like about the book?  In many places the illustrations resemble stills from an animated television show more than original artwork.  The overall design of the book is extremely busy and the sequence of the speech bubbles is occasionally hard to follow, especially for the intended audience of 2nd and 3rd grade readers.  Kids are also less likely to understand the homage to “pulp detective” stories and many of the puns will go over their heads. 

 To whom would you recommend this book? It might serve as a mild diversion for kids who are impatiently waiting for the next Dog Man installment.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries that can’t keep up with demand for comic books

Where would you shelve it?  Comics/graphic novels

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 12/1/2020

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