Tide Pool Troubles

Viking. (Shelby & Watts: Bk. 1). Aug. 2021. 96p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780593205310.
Gr 1-3–The first book in a planned graphic novel series centered on best friends who solve environmental-themed mysteries. Shelby the fox fancies herself a budding amateur detective, the result of an intense “Detective Dahlia” series obsession; facts-oriented Watts the badger, on the other hand, looks forward to new volumes of the Encyclopedia of the World. When Mary the mail pug delivers a plea for assistance from Fred the hermit crab, Shelby and Watts travel to the seashore to figure out why seashells—which hermit crabs rely on for protection—are disappearing. Identifying the culprit will take ingenuity, deductive reasoning, and insight; luckily, our heroes are up to the task. The short narrative sets out to accomplish a lot—introducing Shelby and Watts, walking readers through the seashore mystery, and briefly setting up the environmental detective agency that is the premise of presumed future works. Colorful, minimalistic cartoons will connect best with younger audiences. However, despite the inviting illustrations, uneven pacing and tone, and an overreliance on scientific facts result in an uninspired story. Younger readers unfamiliar with the seashore might overlook the oversimplified mystery in favor of the information that Anstee provides on seagulls, barnacles, and other marine life. Many kids will find the tale tedious due to the obvious identity of the seashell culprit. Not even the amusing Sherlock Holmes allusions can elevate this chapter graphic novel.
VERDICT Promising concept, disappointing execution. An additional purchase.

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