February 24th, 2011 by Karen
Last week, I announced the big winner of the Cybils Award for middle grade fiction. But there were LOTS of great books in the running, and another finalist that I really enjoyed was Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.
You know, over the years I never said to myself, “Gee, I could really go for a murder mystery set at a zoo. Oh, and the victim should be a grumpy hippo!” But now that I’ve ready Belly Up, I realize it’s been a hole in my life that I didn’t even know existed!
The hippo in question is Henry, the mascot of FunJungle, a spectacular new zoo where Teddy and his parents live (his parents work for the zoo). When Henry turns up dead, Teddy suspects foul play — and his investigations bring him into contact with the zoo’s short-tempered head vet, the zoo owner’s celebutante daughter, and quite a bit of danger.
You also get an insider’s access to the operations of a gigantic zoo/theme park, which I loved. Teddy pretty much gets free rein of the park (and sometimes sneaks into spots if he doesn’t), so following his adventures was like getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the place — but with a possible hippo killer on the loose!
Added bonus: If you’ve been suffering through an especially windy and snowy winter like most of the country, then this book makes for a great getaway to sunny Texas!