Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: More fun and intrigue at FunJungle
The Bottom Line:
A kidnapped panda
With Teddy in thick of things
Li Ping is in Trouble!
When you right a series about zoo animals, you have to include pandas. In fact, it almost surprises me that it took Stuart Gibbs until the fourth book in the FunJungle series to write Panda-monium. Whether you are a fan of the series or picking up the book because you love all things panda, this book will definitely entertain.
If you’ve missed these books, they are a middle grade mystery series set in FunJungle, a combination zoo and amusement park in the middle of Texas. Okay, so the rides are still being built in this book, but the zoo has some wonderful sounding exhibits. Our main character is Teddy Fitzroy, whose parents both work for the park. He also happens to be friends with Summer, the park owner’s daughter. Honestly, if this place really existed, I’d love to go visit it, and I’m not much of a zoo person. And don’t let the middle grade target audience fool you. These are some fantastically plotted mysteries with strong characters all ages will enjoy.
It’s the big day for FunJungle. They have been granted the privilege of adding a panda to their many zoo animals. As always, they’ve gone all out to create the perfect environment for Li Ping. And they’ve taken every precaution they could to help her arrive in comfort via a custom built truck. While they’ve tried to keep her arrival a secret, word has gotten out and the front gate is crowded with panda fans.
Of course, Teddy Fitzroy is on hand as well, although he’s inside the park thanks to his connections. It’s why he is on hand when the back of the truck is actually opened to reveal nothing inside. Li Ping and the veterinarian assigned to travel with her are nowhere to be found. With the threat of an international incident, the FBI quickly swoop in, and Teddy figures this is one mystery in FunJungle he won’t be solving.
That is until Large Marge corners Teddy. While he and the security guard have had a contentious relationship (to put it mildly), she wants Teddy to investigate the panda’s disappearance, and she isn’t above using blackmail to get Teddy to do it. But with the FBI involved, will he find any clues without getting into trouble?
Of course, this plot teaser leaves out a very fun sub-plot involving the dolphins at FunJungle. The two are perfectly balances to keep readers engaged the entire way through the book. And when I got to the end, I couldn’t believe the clues I had missed along the way. Yes, once again, the mystery is perfectly put together with clues and red herrings that keep us guessing until the very end.
The characters are growing and changing as this series goes along as well, something that can be rare in a middle grade mystery, but I find refreshing. The cast is fantastic, and I just love them.
Stuart Gibbs uses these books to point out the very real dangers facing some of the endangered animals on our planet. Yet, that is never the focus of the book but an aspect to it. The story never slows down for a lecture, and it never forgets that it is a mystery first. It’s a fantastic way to highlight some serious issues in our world.
After all, I can’t forget the fun. Yes, the FunJungle setting lives up to its name. Who wouldn’t want to have almost free reign of a zoo/amusement park. Plus we get great humor coming from the characters and some of the situations they find themselves in. Believe me, you’ll find plenty to laugh out in between the danger and the clues.
So settle back and get ready for some Panda-monium. This book will delights fans of the series and create plenty of new ones.
Find more animal related mystery and fun with the rest of the FunJungle series.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.