Feature Book of the Week Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


12 year old Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it's claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain't the polar bear's lunch. Dealing with the zoo's top brass proves to be nothing but a waste of time. They want to see any trace of Henry's death disappear like yesterday's paper. So Teddy sets out to find the truth. With the help of Summer McCraken, a fiesty girl with secrets of her own, the two narrow down their prime suspects. Is it Martin Del Gato, FunJungle's head of operations who hates kids and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and Summer's father, who has more concern for the dough he's raking in than the animals in the zoo? As their investigation goes on, Teddy gets squeezed on all sides to quit asking questions or Henry won't be the only animal in the zoo to turn up dead. The deeper Teddy and Summer get, they had better make sure they want to know what they want to know because when it comes to hippo homicide, the truth can't be kept in a cage!


I worked at a zoo when I was in college, and I had a wonderful time there.  Afterward, I became a screenwriter.  The while time I was writing movies, I always thought that the behind-the-scenes world at a zoo would make for a great story.  So I eventually wrote and sold a movie script set at a zoo.  But it never got made.  So then I sold a TV show set at a zoo.  But that didn't get made either.  (This kind of thing happens a lot in Hollywood.  You can actually make a good living writing things that never get made.)  Then, one day, an agent asked me if I had any interest writing a middle grade novel.  I leapt at the chance -- because I realized that I had finally found the perfect place to tell my zoo story.

Now the question was, what story should I tell?  It occurred to me that the murder of an animal was a great crime for a kid to solve -- in part because the police really wouldn't investigate it themselves.  (After all, the police generally solve the murders of humans, not animals.)  So I created Teddy Fitzroy, a kid lucky enough to live at an incredible zoo and knowledgable enough about animals to suspect foul play when one dies.  Now, I only needed victim.

I read a lot of mysteries while figuring out how to write this one, and I realized something in the process: The more suspects you have, the better the mystery.  So then I had to figure out, why would a lot of people want a specific animal dead?  After all, animals are generally quite nice.  They usually don't make enemies.

Hippos, however, aren't that nice at all.  Don't get me wrong.  I love hippos -- but I wouldn't want to be in the water with one.  Hippos are dangerous, unpredictable -- and tremendously unsanitary.  And yet, in lots of children's books and movies, they're depicted as surprisingly cute and cuddly.  (See: Fantasia, Madagascar, the George and Martha series -- or any book by Sandra Boynton.)  Thus, it seemed plausible that some adults who didn't really know what they were doing might think that real hippos were cute and cuddly -- and then make the mistake of making one the mascot of their theme park.  And once they realized their mascot was, in fact, dangerous, unpredictable and tremendously unsanitary, a lot of them might want it dead.

So that's why I bumped off a hippo.

I hope you enjoy my book.

Stuart Gibbs


Vital statistics for Stuart Gibbs:
Birthdate: June 11  (Please do not feel obligated to send presents)
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Place that he really spent most of his childhood: San Antonio, TX
Place that he lives now: Los Angeles, CA
Interesting thing he did before becoming a writer: Worked at a zoo
Large, semi-aquatic rodents he was at one point one of the world’s foremost experts on:Capybaras
Reason he was one of the world’s foremost experts on capybaras: No one else was studying them
Movies he has written that have actually been made: See Spot RunRepli-KateShowdown
Animated movies he worked on: AnastasiaOpen Season 3Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers (yes, another Three Musketeers project)
TV networks that have hired him to develop TV shows for them: ABC, Fox, Disney, Nickelodeon
Did any of those TV shows get on the air? No
Hobbies: Hiking, cycling, skiing, canyoneering, traveling
Does he have any hobbies that don’t involve being outside? Not really
Wait, what’s canyoneering? It’s kind of like hiking, except you do it in a canyon and occasionally, you have to rappel down a waterfall.
Wow, sounds cool. It is.  It’s really cool.
Favorite place to travel to: Anywhere in Africa to go on safari
Wife: Suzanne
Children: Dashiell and Violet
Next books: “Spy School” will be in stores on March 6, 2012.  And “Traitor’s Chase,” the sequel to “The Last Musketeer,” will be available on June 26, 2012.
Author info retrieved from author website

I would like to thank Mr Gibbs for agreeing to participate in the Feature Book of the Week. Hope everyone is enjoying Belly Up.

16 Delicious Comments:

Anonymous said...

Northeast Middle School
Oct 15

I found Belly UP totally fun and believe it would be a hilarious movie. I think the best was the description of the smell in an auditorium where an autopsy was performed on a hippo. I could not stop reading this book until I was done.

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Rockwood South Middle School said...

Students thought the story was very original; whoever heard of a murdered zoo animal. They liked the multiple clues and red herrings. And they thought it was funny.

Anonymous said...

i found how they described the autopsy smells and liked how they described the doc and the other mean people

Anonymous said...

THE book was very unpredictable. I kept guessing ahead but the guess's were often wrong. I also loved the tiger attack and how the dad saved them (mom and antagonist).

Northwest middle school

Anonymous said...

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hazelwood west middle school

Naida Steadfast said...

I could not stop laughing throughout this book.It was original and fun and a book that keeped me guessing till the end.

Northwest Middle

Naida Steadfast said...

A great mystery and loads of fun. Poor Henry.

Hazelwood Northwest Middle

Anime girl a.k.a adilene said...

i maybe planning on reading this book i heard its going to be AWESOME!!!!!!! HAZELWOOD NORTHWEST MIDDLE SCHOOL GOOO KNIGHTS!!!!

Anonymous said...

Such a good book. So many twists! Who would've thought reading about a dead hippo could be fun?
Hazelwood west middle

Anonymous said...

i think this book is awesome.i heard that there's a shoking ending.


Anonymous said...

wow! this is such a great book. I never knew it'd be so hilarious and full of action!

~hazelwood west middle school

Anonymous said...

currently on this book.... so far so good

I don't like the autopsy though..lol!:)

Hazelwood North

Anonymous said...

who wouldve thought a book about a hipo dying would be this fun to read
hazelwoood west midle

Anonymous said...

After I read this book, I go to the zoo, I get suspicious around the hippos. ;)

~Hazelwood West Middle

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