The title character’s metafictive investigation threatens to get under the skin of justice-minded readers.
The book is covered in fingerprints. On almost every page, houses, household pets, and even the moon up in the sky are smudged with ink. Officer Panda spends most of the book’s 32 pages searching for the culprit. Finally, at the climax of the story, he points his finger at readers and announces, “IT’S YOU!” Some readers will be delighted. They’ll love the idea that—for once—it’s OK to make a mess inside a book with their fingers. And some kids will be amused by their first taste of postmodernism. But fair-minded children may just get annoyed and say, “Those aren’t my fingerprints!” Some people will also get bored with the aimless quality of the text. Page after page is just Officer Panda bicycling around town or staring at prints through a magnifying glass. But some of the illustrations are quite clever. Crowley’s mixed-media pictures of trees, formed out of thumbprints, are exquisitely beautiful, demonstrating what Ed Emberley and children have known for years: fingerprints and a little bit of imagination can go a very long way.
Officer Panda’s investigation is not a great introduction to the justice system, but for readers with the right sense of humor, it has plenty of other delights. (fun facts about fingerprints) (Picture book. 4-8)