Missing Necklace and Bison
Originally, we weren’t supposed to get Bear Bottom this year. However, thanks to the lock down last year, author Stuart Gibbs wasn’t able to do as many school visits, so he had more time to write. That’s definitely a silver lining to the year that was 2020.
This book finds Teddy Fitzroy outside of the normal FunJungle setting, visiting Yellowstone. He’s there with the McCrackens and his parents because J.J. McCracken is thinking of buying a ranch to open up a safari type park in America and he wants the Fitzroys’ opinion before he does. Also along for the trip are Pete, the director of marketing for FunJungle, and his husband Ray.
Well, there is an additional reason that Teddy is there besides accompanying his parents. The current owners of the ranch that J.J. wants to buy are raising bison, and a couple of them have gone missing. At least they think a couple are missing. Teddy is asked to figure out what might have happened to them.
Teddy hasn’t even had a chance to start on that mystery before a large Grizzley bear gets into the house where everyone is staying. In the aftermath, Mrs. McCracken discovers that an expensive necklace she brought with her has vanished. Is the bear to blame? Or is a human responsible for the missing necklace?
Before we go any further, let’s discuss the elephant that isn’t in the room. Since we aren’t in FunJungle for this book, we are missing some of the regular characters in addition to the usual setting. I get it, the author feels the need to expand outside the park so the series doesn’t grow stale. However, for me, part of the charm of the series is that setting. I have loved visiting that zoo/amusement park, and all the danger that Teddy manages to find there.
On the other hand, we still get Teddy, his parents, Summer (his girlfriend who also happens to be J.J.’s daughter), J.J., and Pete. They are key characters in the series, and I got a kick out of some of their interactions. I’ll admit that it took me a little while to keep all the new characters straight, but only because there were so many of them. As the book progressed, they got firmer in my mind.
With two mysteries, the pace was fairly steady. We get several page turning action sequences and some laughs as Teddy goes about figuring out what is really happening. How he does it is once again fantastic and the ending is perfectly logical.
Unfortunately, I did feel the book moralized a bit more than normal for the series. Yes, we always learn about the challenges that the species highlighted in the book are facing in real life, but in this case, it felt like that wasn’t worked as organically into the story as normal. Then there are the stupid tourist scenes in Yellowstone that are supposed to be funny but didn’t quite work for me, instead feeling more like lectures.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed reading Bear Bottom. But I hold Stuart up to a very high standard he usually surpasses. This one just didn’t quite work as well as normal.
If you are a fan of the series, know that the setting is different before you pick up the book. But once you do, you’ll get lost in another fun adventure with Teddy.
Be sure to check out the rest of the FunJungle series.