Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Bananas

illus. by Priya Sundram. 96p. Tara. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9789383145225.
Gr 3–5—Captain Coconut has a special key that can open any lock; however, he has installed a special lock that can resist that key. Satisfied at being one step ahead of himself, Captain Coconut breaks down his own office door. Thus begins a wacky, subtly hilarious adventure with the paunchy, pleasant-faced detective, a man so brilliant that "whenever a detective got a sudden idea, it was called 'doing a Coconut.'" Cue interlude with montage and song lyrics to rival any James Bond theme. Set in an unnamed city in India, this first book in a planned series finds Captain Coconut answering a call from the sobbing Mrs. Y, who is missing four bananas. Can the man with the "brilliant brain" and "memory of an elephant" use his math skills and powers of deduction to identify the thief? Reminiscent of a classic Sesame Street animated short, Ravishankar's first foray into chapters is an understated, quirky delight. Readers will love guessing the answers before the bumbling adults in the story, and the brief text and large, full-color pictures will engage those who are ready to try short chapters on their own. Sundram's boldly colored, mixed-media illustrations look modern, but give a nod to classical Indian art—Captain Coconut often strikes the pose of a many-armed Hindu god—while idiosyncracies like red knee socks and a gaping button-up shirt keep the not-quite 007 endearing and friendly. Some mild toilet humor may jar adults but will only make kids chuckle.
VERDICT A goofy, fun pick for confident new readers who like their humor subtle and appreciate a madcap caper with a dance sequence (or three).

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