Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

In this quick, engaging who-done-it mystery for kids, a 12-year-old boy investigates the suspicious death of a theme park zoo's mascot, Henry the Hippo.

Teddy lives in a trailer at FunJungle because both his parents work there - his mom is a primate specialist, and his dad is a wildlife photographer. He's the only kid around, and he's usually in trouble for pulling pranks because he's bored. But something's not right about the giant hippo's death, and nobody else seems to want to find the truth.

It's a fun mystery, and I'll highly recommend it for animal-loving kids. Teddy's not quite a normal kid (he's wise beyond his years because he's had an unusual childhood around animals in the Congo) but he's got appropriately kid-size curiosity and impulse control problems. His investigation is dangerous and unwise, but he just can't stand to see an animal harmed without recourse.

There's a minor romance element when he crushes hard on the park owner's daughter, but it's innocent (she's a celebrity - who wouldn't be a bit tongue tied?) Also, there's a high ick factor that's really quite funny (dead smelly hippo, lots of exotic poop).

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