A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Fascinating facts about pandas, some insight into the logistical challenges of relocating zoo animals, and discussion of the ethics of tactics used by animal rights activists. Author's note provides information and resources on giant pandas, animal trafficking, and endangered species and habitats.
Animal welfare advocates disagree about how best to serve the interests of threatened animals. Curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to listen can yield important information. Making assumptions makes you vulnerable to mistakes and even deception. Treating people with disrespect creates enemies, not partners. Story notes that you don't need to be tough to stop bullies -- but message is undermined when kids physically assault and humiliate bullies to teach them a lesson.
Positive Role Models
Teddy gets involved in the mystery to protect his girlfriend from blackmail and because he's concerned for the missing panda and the kidnapped vet. He tries to protect his friends' reputations and keep them out of trouble, and he nudges them toward better choices in the future. Teddy also empathizes with his longtime nemesis' difficult situation, and he helps protect her from more severe consequences. He lies frequently, however, in pursuit of reasonable ends. Adults at FunJungle are invested in the well-being of the animals in their care. Three kids who participate in ethically iffy -- and possibly illegal -- behavior make amends by changing their behavior and, for some, doing community service.
Violence & Scariness
Child is threatened by someone with a gun and thrown into exhibit with dangerous animal. A zoo official recklessly fires a gun, alarming park guests and distracting federal officials. Criminal suspect tries to shoot at children and adults. Security officer routinely drives heedlessly around zoo grounds, scattering panicked bystanders and damaging property. Man is kidnapped along with the panda. Adult is drugged and incapacitated by another. A man punches a dolphin that pulls down his swim suit. Children retaliate against bullies by humiliating them, and teachers don't intervene.
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Juvenile insults include "jerk," "idiot," and "moron." Reference to "jackass penguins," which are more typically known as African penguins.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.