A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stuart Gibbs's Belly Up is The first book in the six-volume FunJungle series, named after the fictional Texas Zoo where it's set. It's an entertaining and clever mystery novel from about the death of a hippo at a zoo, told from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy. There are graphic descriptions of animals' deaths, autopsies, and detailed descriptions of bowel habits, as well as some crass body function references, and a handful of fat jokes about heavy female characters in the book. A group of mascots who work for the zoo take a smoke break, and later, one of them smokes a cigar while being interviewed and questioned. Overall, the book promotes research, science, education, and adventure, and raises some interesting, complicated questions about ethics and personal integrity in trying to do the right thing. The audio book version of Belly Up for and the whole series is narrated by Gibson Frazier.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The star animal of FunJungle, Henry the Hippo, has turned up dead. The zoo claims he died of natural causes, but 12-year-old Teddy Fitzroy's convinced there's a better explanation, and a slew of suspects await, all with their own motive: Large Marge hates Teddy. Charlie Conroy was once bitten by Henry. And the Animal Liberation Front could be trying to sabotage the zoo. With the help of zoo owner J.J. McCracken's daughter, Summer, Teddy tracks down clues and learns a lot about zoo animals, ethics, and uncovering the truth in Texas whodunnit style.
Is it any good?
From Stuart Gibbs, the same author who wrote the clever, madcap Spy School and Spy Camp, BELLY UP offers just as much thrill, suspense, and teen boy hilarity, only this time, at a zoo. Here, Teddy Fitzroy's another precocious kid who's misunderstood or whose talents are quite recognized in his particular setting, but who works to earn respect, overcome assumptions, and win the day. There are graphic descriptions here that could be off-putting to the faint of heart, and a few fat jokes that don't quite seem necessary. At times Fitzroy's voice is a bit more adult-like than one might expect from a 12-year-old boy, and the jokes can be a little dated, but this is a fun, engaging read that moves through suspense as if it written for the big screen.
Kids interested in animals, research, or science will find a lot to engage with here, and parents can appreciate a book that continually reasserts the importance of research, ethics, and science in the treatment of animals and dealings within the adult world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how lying figures in Belly Up. Is lying ever justified? How do Teddy and his dad discuss lying as a last resort to gain entry for research? Do you think that's a good reason to lie?
If you've read other book by Stuart Gibbs, how do you think this one compares?
Do you think zoos are a humane place for animals or an infringement on their rights? Why or why not?
- Author: Stuart Gibbs
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: July 5, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 9, 2020
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