Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami by Stuart Gibbs

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Three first books in three different series that will entertain
Cons: None, none, none (Once per books)
The Bottom Line:
Different series
From same talented author
All three worth reading

Variety Pack with Triple the Fun and Mystery

While I never completely lost my love of middle grade novels, I have recently started to make more time to read the books.  Naturally, that means I have some favorite authors for that age group, and one of those is Stuart Gibbs.  He is currently writing three different series, and if you have missed out on his books, Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami is the perfect way to jump in.  Why?  Because it contains the first book in each of the different series.

Stuart’s first series was FunJungle, which kicked off with Belly Up.  The setting is a giant zoo in the middle of Texas and our hero is Teddy Fitzroy.  His parents are both working at FunJungle, which leaves him free to explore.  That’s how he witnesses something one night makes him think that Henry Hippo, the park’s mascot, was murdered only two weeks after the park opened.  But who would kill a hippopotamus?  What could the motive possibly be?

I actually found Stuart’s books when this book was brand new, and it was what hooked me on his writing.  The setting, the characters, the plot – everything is perfect.  I’m not a zoo person, but I still love the behind the scenes tour we get of this fictional zoo.  I love (or love to hate, depending on who we’re talking about) the characters, plus Teddy is blessed with responsible parents, often a rarity in Middle Grade novels.  And the plot moved forward at a great clip.  It’s just great fun.

Spy School is the next book in the collection, and it is the first in the series of the same name.  This series focuses on Ben Ripley, a twelve-year-old who is recruited for training as a spy at an elite boarding school.  Of course, when he arrives as the top secret spy school (his parents think he’s going to a special science school), he discovers that not all is as it seems.  Someone is out to kill him, and an evil organization wants to recruit him.  Who can he trust?

I wasn’t completely sure about this series when the first one came out, but I’m thrilled I gave it a try.  Once again, the characters are great.  The plots are a bit over the top, but this is a spy series with just a hint of fun in it, so you can’t help but smile as you read.  The twists are great and the pages fly by all too quickly.

Moon Base Alpha is Stuart’s newest series.  In fact, Space Case, the book included in this set, is the only book in the series out so far.  (Book two, Spaced Out, is coming in April.)  This one is set in the near future on the first colony on the Moon.  However, one of the group’s members walks out of the base and dies, leaving Dashiell Gibson, our hero, to think he’s been murdered.  Can he prove it?

I was really looking forward to this book because the setting was so different from most of what I read, and it didn’t disappoint.  I felt like I was in the base with Dashiell and this new group of friends.  The plot twisted in some unexpected directions, and the ending surprised me.  In other words, it’s another great book from Stuart.

This collection includes the paperback version of each of the three titles.  The books are just over 300 pages each, so you have plenty of great reading ahead of you when you pick up this set.  And if you are older than the target audience, that’s okay, too.  I am, and I can’t put them down.  Anyone who wants a great read should pick up this set.

As you can see, the series are very different from each other, but the great writing, characters, and plot are consistent no matter which series you are reading.  Plus they are all just plain fun.  If you pick up Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami today, you’ll be lost in a fun new world full of mystery tomorrow with two more waiting to be explored.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.


  1. I have to agree with you about Stuart Gibbs since he has also become a favorite of mine. His books cover some heavy topics with humor. I'm looking forward to the continuation of these series. Thanks for the update.

    1. He does touch on some serious topics, but never without stopping to preach out us, which I enjoy. He keeps the twists and humor coming.

  2. I haven't read any Stuart Gibbs but you made me want to look them up. Space Case sounds especially intriguing. Sci-fi mystery for middle grade. Not many of those out there!

    1. There aren't many sci-fi mysteries out there - at least that I've found. I loved that change of setting for sure in that book.

  3. I guess I will have to check out some of Gibbs books. I haven't yet. Thanks for the post.

  4. What a clever marketing idea!

    I have a soft spot for books set on the moon, and there aren't many. (Monica Hughes wrote a series way back when, and I'm trying to remember the titles. Crisis on Con Shelf Ten was one of them, about a kid raised on the moon who visits an underwater Earth city. Cool stuff!)

    1. I think the moon is too close to home to be a cool setting most of the time. Sci-Fi usually goes out beyond it. That series you mentioned sounds great, that's for sure.