It’s time for another gathering of the Maniacal Book Club and this time we have an offering that will also fit comfortably into category two of the Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge: books with an odd author. For you see, this book is penned by a Giant Panda. Who happens to be a detective. The book also fits quite nicely into category three (books with odd subject matter) as the noir style is not one often seen in books for middle-graders, nor is the fact that the story is written in the format of a chaptered screenplay. So pretty odd all round, I should think. Allow our discussions about this odd little contender to sway you towards taking a walk on the wild side.
Jake G. Panda is a bit of a loner. The in-house detective at the Last Resort, a hotel refuge for endangered species, attracts trouble like spilled sugar attracts ants. When Jake gets a phone call from his Professor friend that is cut suspiciously short, the detective hightails it straight to the last known deserty whereabouts of his friend to get to the bottom of things. Captured by a smuggling cartel, Jake and an unlikely band of fellow endangered animals escape and return to the Last Resort to sort out the mystery of a lost suitcase and a jade Dodo. But at least one familiar face from Jake’s past has got there first. Can Jake keep his wits about him and unravel this age-old mystery or will some double-crossing creatures rain on his parade?
Ah, the panda. So alone and yet, he pretends to enjoy his lonely existence. So it must be for many who find themselves endangered. The message then, is to lean on one’s friends, to see one through the tough times.
But at the same time one must beware upon whom one leans – because the smiling face of a friend could simply be a mask behind which a deadly assassin hides.
Or perchance not.
No dragons in this book. But there were some cool lizard-type guys and a really cool snake. That’s close enough I suppose. There was lots of action and animals being captured and escaping and stealing things and swapping stuff around. There was lots of mystery which was pretty cool. And there are some nasty rats. I would have liked to eat the rats. Jake G. Panda seems like a cool customer. Maybe he can take me on his next case.
Take some advice
from the school of hard knocks,
Should you move to the desert
Take sand-proof jocks.
I was surprised by the originality of the format of this book. When I heard this was pitched at middle-graders, but had a noir flavour, I wasn’t sure how the author was going to pull it off. Noir is not my favourite narrative style, and I wondered how the gritty overtones would suit a book for a younger audience.
I needn’t have worried. The book is written like a screenplay, with most of the noir elements contained in Jake’s introspective voiceover monologues. These all have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek vibe and there’s plenty of dry humour throughout the book, as well as a few slapstick scenes thrown in for good measure. Reflecting on it, it reminded me of movies like the Naked Gun, but aimed at kids.
For the most part I enjoyed the twists and turns and the action-adventure scenes throughout the book, but I felt that the inclusion of an old flame of Jake’s around about the middle of the book slowed things down a bit and I’m not sure how that storyline will appeal to young readers. Other than that though, there are thrills, spills, mystery and mayhem and a whole slew of obscure endangered animals to whet the curious appetite.
This series of books is something really different for this age-group and the illustrated format and the interesting narrative style will no doubt have fans of Jake G. Panda holding their collective breath for the next instalment.
(Noir of any kind is not Mad Martha’s cup of tea)
Oddity Odyssey Challenge Progress Total: 1 of 16 books
Until next time,