Author: Dr. Robin Marie Shepherd
Pages: 46 pages
Publish Date: January 2021
Catalog ID: ASIN : B08RXLSHFV
Where to buy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RXLSHFV
Guest review by Gene Bild
Set in New Zealand, where the author lives and has a psychiatric therapy practice, Operation Pokies opens with adult animal characters bemoaning the malign effects that pokies (the word in New Zealand for slot machines) have on their village and personal lives. Then the story segues into a children’s crusade in which cute animal children and their insect allies, disgusted and angered by the way pokies have warped their lives, take action and dump all their villages’ slot machines into the ocean.
The Amazon site for the eBook gives some startling statistics, without citation, about pokie usage in New Zealand. In lower income areas there is one pokie machine per 75 people, while in upper income areas the ratio is one machine for every 465 people. This Amazon site says the book was written to be an aid to health professionals and educators, implying an intended adult readership, but this simple story featuring animal characters seems more appropriate for children between the ages of 5 and 10 years.
As befits a children’s book, the colors are vibrant, the art is simple and uncluttered, with only a few panels per page. The art is credited to the graphic software firm Burnt Orange Design, which may explain why the book reminded me of the social simulation video game Animal Crossing. On the pdf version of the eBook I was given for review some of the captions are blurry; hopefully the purchasable version is more readable. Black text often appears against a grey background which is hard to read regardless of format.
Readers who aren’t familiar with New Zealand colloquialisms and wildlife may find themselves googling a lot, though that’s not a bad thing. I now know New Zealand has 70 species of giant flightless crickets referred to as weta. It is also interesting to discover how extensively New Zealand argot has incorporated Maori words.
Dr. Shepherd’s work with patients troubled by obsessive behaviors must have given her insights into the way gambling addiction manifests itself on individuals and their families. I’m certain there is a lot more to be said on this subject, and it would be interesting to read a graphic novel on this topic for adults.
Operation Pokies is available only as a Kindle eBook.
Retired high school math teacher Gene Bild has been a comic fan for most of his life. He has published pieces in The Italian-American Review and The First Literary Review East, and lives contentedly in Chicago with his wife and two cats.