Belly Up (FunJungle Book 1)

Belly Up (FunJungle Book 1)
Age Range
Release Date
May 18, 2010
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12 year old Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it's claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain't the polar bear's lunch. Dealing with the zoo's top brass proves to be nothing but a waste of time. They want to see any trace of Henry's death disappear like yesterday's paper. So Teddy sets out to find the truth. With the help of Summer McCraken, a fiesty girl with secrets of her own, the two narrow down their prime suspects. Is it Martin Del Gato, FunJungle's head of operations who hates kids and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and Summer's father, who has more concern for the dough he's raking in than the animals in the zoo? As their investigation goes on, Teddy gets squeezed on all sides to quit asking questions or Henry won't be the only animal in the zoo to turn up dead. The deeper Teddy and Summer get, they had better make sure they want to know what they want to know because when it comes to hippo homicide, the truth can't be kept in a cage!

Editor review

1 review
Hilarious start to a series
(Updated: July 17, 2022)
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What I Liked: My family has become big fans of Stuart Gibbs and after catching up on the Spy School, Charlie Thorne, and Once Upon a Tim series we have branched into his older series by reading Belly Up, the first book in the Funjungle series. In the book, we meet our main character, 12-year-old Teddy Fitzroy, who lives in the employee trailer park at the newly opened Funjungle amusement park where his parents work. The theme park zoo is interesting but he gets a bit bored as the only staff kid and is always curious so when the mascot of the park, Henry the hippo, ends up suddenly belly up he can’t help but sneak into the autopsy as entertainment. Teddy’s character is well presented and his actions feel like what a normal 12-year-old would do in this situation.
However, he is shocked to learn the Doctor thinks Henry has been murdered and that the top people at Funjungle are covering it up to keep bad publicity under wraps. Teddy decides it is up to him to uncover the mystery. He enlists the owner’s daughter, Summer, and his parents for help. As the plot thickens, he must dodge murder attempts on his own life and false arrest accusations to uncover the reason for Henry’s murder.
These near misses in killing him involve the witty descriptions that we love about Gibbs’s writing. All culminating in a final flight from the authorities at the park that had my son and me crying in laughter as a travesty of a hippo funeral is described in minute detail followed by a Safariland showdown. Gibb’s ability to highlight the fakeness in people’s actions and corporate America’s willingness to stoop to any level to make a dollar is well done in a very humorous but insightful way.

What Left Me Wanting More: Gibbs goes into so much detail on the foulness of Henry’s personality and personal hygiene to establish why a hippo had enemies. The potty humor is sure to keep his Middle-Grade audience turning pages. However, there were a few times we made the mistake of trying to listen to the audiobook while in the car on the way to or from a restaurant and the descriptions were a bit too vivid in that context.

Final Verdict: This book was a solid start to a fun Gibb’s series that my family is looking forward to devouring. His humor and ability to write an action scene are solid. The descriptions of JJ McCracken and his psychology in the way Funjungle was built and how it is run feel very authentic making the crazy scenario feel plausible.
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