Sunday, August 14, 2016
REVIEW: The Stinky Cheese Caper and Other Cases from the ZPD Files (book) by Greg Trine, illustrated by Cory Loftis
After reading the junior novelization, I wasn't expecting much from this. The cover made it sound like it would be composed of four standalone stories (“Four stories in one!”). Since it was only 75 pages long, I figured those stories would have to be extremely simple.
In “The Stinky Cheese Caper,” Judy and Nick investigate the theft of a very expensive and very stinky cheese. In “There's Dirt in Your Eye,” Judy and Nick investigate a report of someone dumping dirt of the Old Outback Bridge. The dirt landed on a boatload of tourists and could have hurt someone. In “No Noise Is Good Noise,” Judy and Nick investigate reports of incredibly loud and horrible music coming from a cafe. All the local shopkeepers feel it's hurting their businesses. Finally, in “The Dig's Up,” Judy and Nick investigate a prison break.
This book takes place several months after the end of the movie. Judy and Nick are partners, assigned mostly to traffic duty or cases that none of the other cops want to work on. Astute readers will guess that the four stories are probably related after finishing the first one. Readers who aren't able to figure out that the stories are connected by the beginning of the second one will probably not enjoy this book because, individually and taken at face value, most of these mysteries are pretty dull.
Like I said, I started this book on the assumption that the stories weren't connected. All the unused details in the first story were my first clue that there was something bigger going on. Kangaroos and wallabies were protesting the construction of a new Bridge to Everywhere because it was a “Bridge to Everywhere But Outback Island.” The identity of the cheese thief was another link to Outback Island, but his theft supposedly had nothing to do with the bridge. Also, he supposedly tossed the stinky cheese into the jail on a whim. Surely there was more to it than that? And was the amusement park's new Wind Tunnel ride important? (As far as the last question went, the answer was “no.”)
The second mystery's resolution was ridiculously mundane, to the point where, if it hadn't been obvious that there was something else going on, it wouldn't have been worth including. By the third story, I was wondering where Judy and Nick's brains had gone. Nick, at least, had moments when he wondered about the sudden spate of Outback Island-related cases. Judy, on the other hand, seemed determined to take all the cases at face value, and even missed an enormous clue in a TV news report. I'm sure this was done to keep the story simpler for young readers, but Movie Judy and Nick would have noticed and started looking into the connections sooner than Book Judy and Nick.
As far as the larger story went, I felt a bit torn. The book's overall message was that, although the Outback Island residents had an excellent point, they'd gone about it the wrong way. The problem: the “better” solution was very simplistic (yes, I know this is a kid's book, but still) and might not have even been possible without the connections that the characters made due to everybody doing things the “wrong” way first.
All in all, I enjoyed this more than the junior novelization. The individual mysteries weren't great, and Nick and Judy weren't as sharp as they should have been, but the larger story kept my attention. I enjoyed seeing how everything fit together. I also liked getting to learn about a new area of Zootopia (the revelation that platypuses exist in the Zootopia universe leaves me with all kinds of questions), and seeing Judy and Nick together as partners was fun. I missed the personal and relationship details that the movie was riddled with – this book was entirely focused on the plot, with only a brief mention of Nick visiting an unnamed friend in the jail – but there were still several nice moments. I liked the bit where Judy corrected the warden, who thought that beaver and platypus tails looked the same, and Nick's excitement about getting to use their siren was cute. Judy seemed to be a little bit stun gun happy, though, pulling it out at least twice in the course of the book.
Several black-and-white illustrations in the same style as the cover. Very different from the movie's style, but I liked them all the same. And, ooh, Cory Loftis' Tumblr has some fun stuff. Here's my favorite. "Really Jordan basketball grip her face." (Poor Assistant Mayor Bellwether.) "Ghost of Secretariat appears suddenly."