Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, well done mystery, important message
Cons: The facts that this mystery is based on are too horribly true
The Bottom Line:
Poaching for rhinos
Another case for Teddy
More FunJungle fun
Big Fun in Big Game
It’s always a pleasure to return to one of the many worlds that Stuart Gibbs has created for us. His books are always fun page turners no matter where they might be set. He may write for a middle grade audience, but I have enjoyed each one he’s written. Big Game finds us back on the grounds of FunJungle, a giant zoo in the middle of Texas, where the animals are once again in danger.
It’s a cold morning in February when a gun goes off somewhere on the grounds of FunJungle. The immediate result is an elephant stampede, but security quickly determines that someone has shot at Rhonda Rhino. She is about to give birth to a baby, so this is doubly worrisome. Worse yet, the angle of the bullet makes it look like the shot came from inside the park.
Twelve-year-old Teddy Fitzroy has already solved two cases in the park, but he is flattered when J. J. McCracken, the park’s extremely rich owner, asks him to investigate. Even better, that means he gets to work with J. J.’s daughter Summer. But can they find the shooter before he strikes again? And can Teddy avoid security guard Large Marge who is still determined to arrest Teddy for anything she thinks she can make stick?
Before we go any further, I should issue a spoiler warning. No, I’m not going to spoil anything, but this book does spoil the previous book in the series, so be sure you’ve read that book before you read this one. However, since these books are so wonderful, that’s not a problem at all.
While I have enjoyed all of Stuart’s books, this series holds a special place in my heart since it was the first one I read, and I love the giant zoo setting. It was wonderful to be back and visit the characters once again. They are all well-developed, and it was interesting to see them and their relationships grow in this book. With how things ended, I’m very anxious to see what happens to them in future books.
The plot was wonderfully constructed. As things came together at the end, I was impressed with the set up for the events much earlier in the book. I figured out the solution as Teddy did, and everything fell into perfect place. There were some great twists and at least one heart pounding scene before we reached that ending as well.
Plus there’s the humor. Most of it comes at Large Marge’s expense, but I enjoyed those scenes as well.
Sadly, the premise for this book, the value of rhinoceros’s horns and the poaching that goes on because of that, is an all too real issue. This issue is addressed over the course of the novel without ever once slowing down the pace of the plot. A note from the author at the end tells us all how we can learn more and help.
As an added note, Barnes and Noble actually has an exclusive edition that includes excerpts from the FunJungle employee handbook, two press releases, and a few crime reports that all tie into the action of this book. They aren’t essential, but they are fun, and if you want the entire experience, that’s the way to pick up the book.