Belly Up: FunJungle, Book 1 Book Poster Image

Belly Up: FunJungle, Book 1

Action-packed zoo mystery has gross and graphic parts.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about the inner workings of a zoo, and facts and trivia about various zoo animals, such as hippos and snakes, as well as life in the Congo.

Positive messages

Belly Up offers positives messages about the humane treatment of animals, scientific research, and the importance of ethics. It also paints a strongly positive view of curiosity, education, and personal integrity.

Violence & scariness

Belly Up has some minor peril and suspense throughout, and the death of animals. A major plot point is the death -- and subsequent autopsy -- of a hippo. A jaguar also dies and is autopsied. A few wild animals escape their enclosures and threaten or intimidate zoo attendees, though no one's injured. A man punches another man in the nose, and blood splatters. In one particularly graphic scene, an animal's insides explode onto funeral mourners.


"Jesus Christ" and "damn" used in a few instances. There's some insulting language throughout regarding obese female characters as "fat" or "large." There are graphic descriptions of autopsies, animal organs, and their putrefaction. Detailed references to animal pooping habits and smells, and zoo animals using their waste as a weapon. Minor flatulence references.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Belly Up is an entertaining and clever mystery novel from Stuart Gibbs 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. But, 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.  

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 Fitroy'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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about lying. Is it ever justified? How do Teddy and his dad discuss lying as a last resort to gain entry for research? Did you think that's a good reason to lie? 

  • If you've read other Stuart Gibbs books, 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?

Book details

Author:Stuart Gibbs
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
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of Belly Up: FunJungle, Book 1 was written by

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Parent Written bymandib1 August 5, 2015

Wonderful story but language was an issue

I read this to my 8 and a half year old boy. He loved it. Kept him on the edge of his seat. I looked at reviews before letting him read it by himself and am glad I went with my instinct to read it to him. CSM suggested 8 and up but I strongly advise 14 and up. Story line was great. I had no problem with the "poop" incidents. I did have a HUGE problem with the language here and there. I think CSM dropped the ball on this one. The words that were used were not appropriate for my 8 year old. I am including the words for parents who are concerned. (a**, pi**ed, da*n, he**, ) numerous time. Hope this helps for parents. There was also a part that mentions drinking quite a bit of alcohol.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Kid, 9 years old June 2, 2016

Great Book

Belly Up is one of my favorite books. It was a great mystery, and kept me guessing to the end. It was suspenseful at moments, and once, people were splattered with hippo guts, and there was also some bad language, so I wold not recommend it for sensitive kids. But overall it was a great book.
Kid, 11 years old August 12, 2015

Good book

Has some slightly gory scenes, all science based, and some language