The Case of the Cursed Dodo is an engaging read for 8-12 year-olds in particular. Jake the Panda is a detective. He is the classic detective of the American 1940’s-era black-and-white movies. However, he has a distinctly modern flair in dialogue and plot.
In this, the first of Jake’s adventures, a phone call from his old friend the Professor sets this hardened detective on the first step of a journey across Northern Africa to help. Jake tangles with not-too-bright thugs, vicious poachers, the occasional “dame” and a LOAD of verbal sparring.
There are laugh-out-loud slapstick moments, the best kind of groan-worthy, perfectly placed puns. The author gets a little carried away adding endangered animal characters–so much so that the plot begins to sag and the characters all blur together. Fortunately, about a third of the way through the characters seem to thin out. When there are fewer characters to keep track of their personalities begin to emerge and become interesting to the reader.
Cursed Dodo is written in the form of a movie script. It is an intriguing device that mostly works for this type of story. Script form allows the author to define setting and character quickly and succinctly while still creating vivid images. It’s the perfect ‘next step’ for young readers who enjoy Bruce Hale’s witty, silly Chet Gecko series. Jake Panda is Chet Gecko grown up and gone international.
Lucky enough to read The Case of the Cursed Dodo before it was widely available, I encourage young readers and those who work with them to look for Jake’s first adventure. Jake and his compatriots are fun and leave plenty of room for further character development in a continuing series. This could be a fun read-aloud in a 3rd or 4th grade classroom, or at home.