Thursday, February 24, 2011
By Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. 294 pages. Fiction.
I admit it, I totally judge a book by its cover. In this case, I was not disappointed- it is as fun and intriguing and the cover promises. 12 year old Teddy lives with his photographer dad and monkey scientist mom on the property of Funjungle, the world's biggest amusement park and zoo in Texas. The book starts right off with Teddy's grand adventure- Henry the Hippo is found floating belly up in his pond. Henry is a key player here, because he was essentially the zoo's mascot, like Shamu is for Sea World. Although beloved by outsiders, he was extremely cranky and loathed by the zoo's employees. Author Stuart Gibbs offers hilarious descriptions of Henry's mischief, such as his habit of shooting "streams of feces" at whoever is nearby. Teddy believes that Henry was murdered, and sets off on a wildly fun whodunit investigation.
In case your gross-o-meter didn't perk up at "streams of feces," I have to warn readers that this book is pretty disgusting at times. Boys will love it. This is a fast-paced adventure story with incredible attention to detail. Stuart Gibbs' experience with working in a zoo pays off well. This is a great mystery novel for 5th grade and up. A warning for sensitive parents: there is some mild language. It's unfortunate, because this could have been a great pick for younger readers. Belly Up also has a great message about respecting animals and their habitats.