Welcome to November! It’s hard to believe that with the passing of Halloween, we’re now officially entering the holiday season but here we are. Today’s entry was introduced to us by my son’s book buddy, a children’s reference librarian he’s been reading with virtually for over 6 weeks. Over the past couple of months, she has done an amazing job recommending books based on his interests. She suggested this series because of his love of Dog Man and The InvestiGators and though we’re only halfway through (book 2 of 4), I’d say she found a perfect match.

At first glance, Platypus Police Squad series may seem to be a peer to Dog Man or other age appropriate graphic novels. For one, though illustrated, these aren’t graphic novels. They are chapter books, averaging 240 pages each, and require the reader to keep track of several characters and quite a bit of dialogue. There have been several times when I’m reading at bedtime that I’ve wondered whether the storylines might be too complicated or possibly dry for an 8 year old but each time I’ve asked, my son has assured me emphatically that I should keep reading. He knows exactly what’s going on so maybe it’s a me thing. I need to give my kiddo more credit for following stories while his eyelids are drooping!

Anyway, the series is set in the fictional Kalamazoo City, a thriving metropolis that is populated by anthropomorphic animals of all species. I imagine the city is akin to Zootopia when I’m reading, especially as these books are also centered on animal police officers. As for main characters, we have Detectives Rick Zengo and Corey O’Malley. Zengo is your typical rookie officer with a slight chip on his shoulder. See, he has something to prove in that his grandfather used to be the chief of the Platypus Police Squad so he feels he has a lot to live up to.

On his first day, he’s paired with veteran officer O’Malley, who at first seems over the hill, washed up, a bit disheveled and not as sharp as he may have once been. As these stories tend to go, O’Malley is not thrilled to be paired with Zengo. For one, his long-time partner has just retired. They were a great team and there’s no way he’s going to find a partner like that again, not at this point in his career. Second, a rookie? Come on! Why should he have to babysit the new kid? He’s too busy for this!

Yeah, I know, this is the plot of nearly every cop related, new partners show or movie that’s ever been made. But the thing is, to our kids, the story is brand new and they eat it up. My son loved hearing how each officer proved the other wrong by coming through big at pivotal moments of the story. He’s a sucker for a hero storyline, as most of us are.

So what’s the drama? Well, here’s where I have to level with you. Some parents aren’t going to like the plot because it might possibly sound like it involves drugs. Apparently, someone has been supplying ‘synthetic fish’ to the fine citizens of Kalamazoo City. The fake fish, as they’re referred to throughout the book, make people sick or act strangely, which gives off the whiff of drugs but I have to disagree. Since it’s apparent that real fish is fine to consume, I took it to be more of food poisoning type situation. Either way, it’s worth mentioning here that parents may want to peruse the pages first to get a feel for themselves.

So who is plying the town with fake fish, making so many sick? And does it have anything to do with a missing Kalamazoo City High School teacher? Who has the most to lose, or gain, from the situation? Zengo is certain that the town’s most well-known and wealthy citizen, Frank Pandini Jr, is the one behind the whole thing. Pandini is a real estate development mogul who has done much to bring the city into the future. He owns clubs, gyms, restaurants… and he’s also funding the building of a new stadium for the high school football team. Most believe him to be a local hero but Zengo isn’t impressed.

You see, Zengo’s grandfather, the former police chief was murdered by Pandini’s father, Frank Pandini, Sr who used to run the city as a corrupt, crime boss. So this is a very personal situation to him. O’Malley, with much more experience under his belt, implores the rookie to remain calm until they have more evidence but of course, where’s the drama in that? Zengo makes many blunders along the way but there are times where it feels like he may be right in his assumptions. Pandini, Jr is intent on setting things right and proving that he is the opposite of his father, but is it true? Or is this a case of the rotten apple not falling far from the crooked, twisted tree?

Platypus Police Squad has been a lot of fun for my son and as soon as we finished the first book, he wanted to know when we could start the next one. Luckily, there are 4 books, averaging about a week to finish each one so it’s possible that these books could carry you and your reader/listener through Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy following along with the cases and find yourself trying to solve them first, the way we have.   

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