Middle schooler Teddy has an enduring love for animals, a healthy dose of intellect, and a way with high jinks.
Since Teddy, his primatologist mother, and wildlife photographer father moved into FunJungle Wild Animal Park two books ago in Belly Up (2010), the excitement hasn’t ceased. In the opening chapter of this third installment, a shot is fired at the park’s beloved, pregnant, and very endangered rhinoceros, Rhonda. Teddy is at the epicenter of the brouhaha involving stampeding pachyderm and a wily, escape-artist orangutan. Meanwhile, a candy store and an ice cream shop have been ransacked, and once again wannabe detective Marge’s favorite suspect is Teddy. Teddy is still trying to hide his crush on the bosses’ daughter, Summer, as together they work to solve the mystery of the would-be poacher without being misled by red herrings or eaten by crocodiles. As silly as this story is, its tense action serves to illustrate the very real threat to the rhino’s survival due to black-market sales that value the horns more highly, ounce for ounce, than gold. This whodunit explores the many sides of the complex exotic-animal issue while supplying ample wildlife trivia, such as the fact that elephants are the only animals with four knees.
Monkey business included, this adventure strikes a neat balance between shenanigans and gravitas to inspire young conservationists. (Mystery. 9-13)