Smart and Funny Middle Grade Mystery
by Stuart Gibbs
Series: FunJungle (Book 1)
Publication Date, PPB Reprint: July 5, 2011
Original Hardcover Publication: May 18, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Buy the Book and Continue the Story:
Teddy Fitzroy is in over his head. Living at FunJungle, America’s newest theme park, was supposed to be nothing but, well, fun. But now Henry the Hippo, the park’s mascot, has turned up dead, and Teddy suspects foul play. Unfortunately, it turns out plenty of people wanted Henry gone — and the list keeps growing. As Teddy searches through all the clues and asks too many questions, it becomes clear that he too might end belly up.
Belly Up is a smart, funny middle grade mystery that should appeal to both boys and girls. Stuart Gibbs’ employment history includes working at the Philadelphia Zoo so the novel is informed by life experience, and readers will learn much about the workings of a zoo. There are times — mostly when facts are imparted about zoos, business, or economics — that the narrative voice is not quite representative of a twelve-year-old boy. When it comes to dialogue though, Teddy’s personality emerges bright and clear, revealing a funny, clever kid with whom any other kid would like to hang. And just in case readers should find Teddy lacking in spunk, his new friend and sidekick Summer McCracken is feisty enough for the two of them!
In my eyes, the novel’s grounding in facts gives a good balance that keeps it from tipping into silly or ridiculous. That said, however, while curious and astute readers will be fascinated by and learn from the preponderance of zoological facts and discourse on animal welfare, the more reluctant crowd may feel bogged down waiting for the action. Still, with adventure and mystery in abundance and a puzzle that’s difficult to crack, patient readers who keep at it will be rewarded with an enjoyable tale that is just the beginning of what promises to be an engaging series. Book Two, Poached (released in April) is in stores now!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. Smart and Funny Middle Grade Mystery.
Belly Up is a worthy addition to the middle grade mystery circle, equally appealing to boys and girls. Give this to kids who like Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot or Wendelin Van Draanen’s Sammy Keyes series.