Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Animals, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Teddy Fitzroy lives in a giant amusement park zoo, FunJungle, with his gorilla researcher mom and wildlife photographer dad. After spending the early years of his life in the Congo with his parents, Teddy is pretty comfortable around animals and knows a lot more than the average adult, let alone other twelve-year olds. So when FunJungle's mascot, a cranky old hippopotamus named Henry suddenly dies, Teddy suspects foul play. With the help of the zoo's owner's daughter, Summer McCraken, he is determined to figure out what is going on--even though none of the adults believe him.
Teddy Fitzroy is a bit of a prankster and gets in trouble A LOT at the park. He's the only kid there (except for guests) and many of the adults look down at him as an annoying kid. This could be explained by the pranks he plays on keeper, guards, and guests, but his jokes are just that. They would never hurt any of the animals or people. He would never do that. He truly does care about the animals and most of his pranks are in response to the rude and ridiculous actions perpetrated by the guests as they throw things into animals' enclosure or bang on the glass to entice the animals. He's really just standing up for them.
Teddy is also very knowledgeable about animals. After spending most of his life (he's only 12) in the Congo with his parents, he's seen a lot of animals in the wild. He understands more about them than most adults do, like the keepers and researchers on staff at FunJungle. So when Henry dies, he just wants to know what's up because he's seen plenty of dead animals before, but never seen an autopsy. Teddy is curious. However what he learns, leads him on a chase for Henry the hippo's real killer.
This story is full of adventure and fun. Kids will laugh at the antics Teddy gets into and root for him as he dodges the not so intelligent adults. There are a few minor curse words in this, but nothing I would be concerned about for middle school kids, grades 6+. Teddy have a crush on a girl, but it's all very innocent.
I definitely recommend this book to readers. Kids who enjoy Carl Hiassen will probably jump into Belly Up. And, there are at least two more books in this series about Teddy and his adventures at FunJungle.