Pup Detectives: The First Case – written by Felix Gumpaw, illustrated by Walmir Archanjo at Glass House Graphics, Little Simon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 9781534474956, 2021
Pup Detectives: The Tiger’s Eye – written by Felix Gumpaw, illustrated by Walmir Archanjo at Glass House Graphics, Little Simon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 9781534474970, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Mystery (Graphic Novel)
What did you like about the book? Pawston Elementary is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals with school day elements that readers will easily relate to: classes, recess, assemblies, lunch bandits, giant monsters… Well, maybe there’s more to Pawston than meets the eye. Good thing the P.I. Pack (Pup Investigator Pack) is ready to tackle mysteries and sniff out clues (sometimes literally!). In the first two volumes of Pup Detectives, readers treated to fast-paced stories, full color illustrations, and good-natured characters.
The Pack starts as a pair of pups with Rider, a boy with a lot of spunk and determination, and Rora, an observant girl who thinks ahead. To complete their skills, Westie, a small boy who loves to invent, and Ziggy, a boy who has a strong nose and loves to eat, soon join the team! This group of four pups work well together and exchange plenty of silly dialog, often consisting of puns that will get kids giggling. The other students are often in the background providing commentary by way of their reactions and expressions in lieu of additional text. This method of storytelling is highly accessible to emergent readers while helping to fill up each page with more action. These background characters are an entire menagerie of animals including sloths, rabbits, hedgehogs, turtles, and more; all are approximately the same size so we don’t see elephants towering over tiny mice but rather looking eye-to-eye.
Both volumes are in full color with clear, digital illustrations. This gives the books a lot of appeal to readers who open it up to browse as they’re sure to be greeted with a bright and interesting scene no matter what page they land on. Archanjo’s images compliments Gumpaw’s story well and the two have worked together to create a fun start of a new series.
Anything you didn’t like about it? These titles are fun but fall a little short in several areas. The aforementioned puns are abundant but many will likely fly right over the heads of their target readers, making the line a throwaway at best and confusing at worst. Characters, with the possible exception of Rora and Rider, aren’t given much depth and are often boiled down to one key trait; Ziggy, for example, seems to have a personality based entirely around liking food.
The mysteries presented in each book are told in very different fashions so it’s difficult to say how upcoming installments may flow. Book one, The First Case, offers visual clues to the readers regarding “whodunnit,” allowing them insight into the possible ending. Book two, The Tiger’s Eye, is a much higher-stakes mystery but leads readers by the hand to solve the case with them. The former method will be much more fun for readers while the latter type of mystery offers a more exciting story overall. Hopefully the creators will combine the best of both worlds going forward.
To whom would you recommend this book? This is a fun series for readers at a grade two to four level and an okay read-alike for those seeking more Dog Man- or Geronimo Stilton-style adventures.
Who should buy this book? Libraries as a secondary purchase.
Where would you shelve it ? J Graphic Novels
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA
Date of review: March 8, 2021