A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Panda-monium -- the fourth book in Stuart Gibbs' FunJungle series about a kid detective at a popular zoo -- tackles the issue of animal trafficking with a plot about a stolen panda. There's a fair amount of juvenile humor, including boys and an adult whose swimsuits are yanked down by dolphins and abundant references to animal pee and poop. Children are endangered by animals and armed attackers. Teddy, a middle schooler, is respected by some adults for his track record as a sleuth but treated harshly by others. Gibbs incorporates lots of information about giant pandas, the work that goes into housing and caring for zoo animals, the ethical pros and cons of animal rights activism, and the problem of animal trafficking.
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What's the story?
It's PANDA-MONIUM at FunJungle, where zoo staff and an eager crowd await the arrival of Li Ping, a rare giant panda. But when the delivery truck arrives, it's empty: Both the panda and the zoo veterinarian have been kidnapped. Middle schooler Teddy, who's dating the famous daughter of FunJungle's owner and lives at the park with his parents, thinks the FBI is overlooking some important clues. He's supposed to stay off the case but gets blackmailed into investigating on his own. Teddy's detective work finds him facing a gun, getting tossed into a bear exhibit, and unraveling a clever deception that tricks even the feds.
Is it any good?
Author Stuart Gibbs serves up another page-turner brimming with neat information about wild animals and giggle-worthy gags that lighten the weight of the strong conservation message. Panda-monium again pits Teddy's sleuthing skills against those of adults who regard him as meddlesome. Gibbs (of the Spy School and Moon Base Alpha series) has a knack for weaving in scientific information without it ever feeling dull or forced. The wealth of information about pandas and animal welfare is fascinating and thought-provoking, sure to inspire some thinking about humans' relationship with wildlife.
The humans in this series don't make a great impression, however. An overweight, incompetent security guard is constantly ridiculed for her size and body odor. Other adults, particularly authority figures, tend to be jealous, petty, and impatient. And Teddy, who sincerely wants to solve the mystery, lies when it suits his purpose and often makes questionable choices.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the goals and tactics of animal rights activists that are discussed in Panda-monium. Do you think the activists' goals justify illegal or dangerous actions?
What's the appeal of stories about kid detectives? What strengths do young amateurs have compared with professionals in these stories?
How does curiosity make Teddy a better detective?
- Author: Stuart Gibbs
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 4, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mysteries and animals
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