Gibbs, Stuart. Poached.
April 8th 2014
by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
In this sequel to Belly Up, Teddy is back and in more trouble than ever. School Bully Vance has dared him to put mannequin arms in the shark tank to incite panic (even though Teddy points out that sharks really don't like to eat humans), and the ensuing melee ends with Teddy realizing that Kazoo, the visiting koala, is missing... and he is now the prime suspect. Large Marge is ready to slap the cuffs on him right away, based on the strength of his previous peccadilloes, but Teddy knows that he may be Kazoo's only chance to be found before he starves to death due to lack of eucalyptus leaves. Teddy is suspicious of everyone, and it's not easy to surreptitiously observe everyone, so at one point he finds himself donning a giant Kazoo costume! He gathers a lot of evidence, solving two other mysteries before locating the actual culprit and exonerating himself.
Strengths: Once again, Gibbs has given us an intriguing mystery with lots of good clues and twists. I don't know why I thought that cover to Belly Up wasn't good-- I was so glad to see that this sequel had the same style, which I rather like now! The details of running an animal park are great-- everything from food for the animals, to staffing, to possible competitors. I really liked Summer McCracken, and was a bit sad that she didn't appear more.
Weaknesses: This started off on the wrong foot for me, with a description of Vance, the most stereotypical bully ever. This is a common sore spot for me: NO MORE STEREOTYPICAL BULLIES, people! This makes for an extremely uninteresting and one dimensional character. When Vance then attempts to put Teddy's head in the school toilet... sigh. Gibbs could have made Vance so much more interesting.
I also felt that Large Marge was not a good character to have in the book. Some of the humor comes from the fact that she is fat, and one scene involves her running and slipping in vomit. I think that finding fat people humorous has gone out of style-- even Weird Al's Fat costume in his tours seems dated to me. If Marge is made fun of because she is mean, or vindictive, or makes hasty, incorrect judgements, okay. After a LOT of thought, I just don't think it's okay to make fun of people because of how they look or because of facets of their physical make up that the can't change. It's touchy territory.
That said, I don't think I can wait until September 16th for this one! Again, I have come to love this cover style!
Oh, and someone lost my copy of Spy Camp, so I have to remember to replace that.