Big Game by Stuart Gibbs
Teddy Fitzroy’s adventures started a few books ago – first Belly Up, then Poached, now Big Game. Switching between middle school drama and life at FunJungle, a zoo/theme park which is also his home, these stories manage to weave in first crushes, bullies, fun facts about animals, and research on conservation. Big Game continues the exciting ride and throws in appearances from familiar, comic characters like Large Marge and TimJim, the inseparable twin bullies.
This time, Rhonda the Rhino is in danger from someone who might want her horn. (It’s worth a lot of money in Asia for its reputed medicinal qualities, as if it wasn’t enough that she’s endangered and pregnant.) In the past, there were hippo assassins and koala kidnappers to stop. Funjungle still seems ill-prepared to deal with both security logistics and elephant stampedes, although J.J McCracken, its wealthy founder, has expectations of everyone, including Teddy. J.J. McCracken’s daughter, Summer, has come back into the picture after leaving boarding school back east to be middle school queen bee in Texas.
Stuart Gibbs also has two other series – Spy School and Moon Base Alpha – and all are fun for middle grade readers. There’s always a good mix of action, humorous misunderstandings, and silly mishaps in his books, and the fun is blended with really interesting tidbits of information and realistic relationships. The cool kids aren’t always cool. The parents aren’t always clueless. The bad guys aren’t always 100% bad. And the endings aren’t always quite as predictable as you might expect, which is an especially nice twist when you read a lot of middle grade.