Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked Book Poster Image
Plot and jokes forced but harmless in detective parody.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Young readers will get an idea of the structure and elements of detective fiction, and learn a little bit about what police detectives do and what high school culture is like.

Positive Messages

Kids, like detective Zengo, learn it's important to think before you act; a careful approach -- not rash behavior -- is needed to solve difficult problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zengo is guided by loving, supportive parents; by his wise, good-hearted partner, O'Malley; and by the memory of his brave grandfather, who inspired Zengo to become a police detective.

Violence & Scariness

Platypus police officers use boomerangs (not guns) to stop crime. Zengo and O'Malley investigate a missing-person case that could turn out to be a murder case. Zengo reveals that someone he loved was killed by a convicted criminal, but the murder happened before this book's plot begins and is not described graphically.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked is the first in a series of middle-grade detective novels by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the popular Lunch Lady series of graphic novels and Punk Farm picture books. In this volume, rookie detective Rick Zengo and his wise but hapless partner, Corey O'Malley, investigate a missing-person case that leads them to an illegal fish-smuggling ring. Young readers might not grasp the author's attempt at parody with these Platypus versions of typical fiction or film detectives, and the use of "illegal fish" as a stand-in for what might be a  drug-smuggling plot in an adult novel. However, there's a decent dose of slapstick and family-related kid humor here that readers might find funny, and the book contains nothing objectionable or frightening.

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What's the story?

On his first day as a member of the Platypus Police Squad, enthusiastic rookie detective Rick Zengo is assigned to be the partner of experienced detective and family \"man\" Corey O'Malley. When the detectives are called to investigate a crime on the docks, they stumble onto a case that involves a missing schoolteacher and illegal fish. Zengo believes that all the evidence leads to Frank Pandini Junior, the giant panda big-wig who seems to control every business in town, but Zengo's overzealousness makes him behave rashly, and he gets himself and his partner into trouble with the police chief. By the end of the story, Zengo has learned to approach police work more methodically and carefully, while still fighting the good fight.

Is it any good?

Kids who like mysteries may find the story and characters entertaining, and there's some slapstick humor for kid-level laughs, but so far this series is benign but unthrilling.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka parodies police detective fiction in PLATYPUS POLICE SQUAD; THE FROG WHO CROAKED, creating a kid-ified version of a crime story starring various wild animals as police officers, a club owner, high school students, etc. Unfortunately, most of the humor and plot devices come off as  forced to grown-ups and may be largely lost on kids -- kind of a lose-lose situation. Also, the plot involving illegal fish smuggling, while a funny substitute for familiar adult fare, is convoluted, and it's not clear why some kinds of fish are illegal. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why detective stories are so popular. What's fun about seeing animals solve crimes instead of humans?

  • Have you read the Lunch Lady books by the same author? Which do you like better, and why?

  • Try writing your own mystery or detective story. Who would be the crime-solver, and what would he or she investigate? Where would it take place?

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