Panda-monium: FunJungle, Book 4

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Panda-monium: FunJungle, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Lively zoo whodunit takes on animal welfare, trafficking.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Language

Juvenile insults include "jerk," "idiot," and "moron." Reference to "jackass penguins," which are more typically known as African penguins.

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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bydylanravel November 26, 2017

Really Good!

I thought this book was very very good. There was a lot of good Educational Value in the book. It is a book that you can not put down. When I read it I could no... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old October 8, 2017

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?

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