POACHED for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This is the second book in a series about 12-year-old Teddy Fitzroy who lives with his parents in a Texas zoo. I had not read the 41wiDplNXQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_first book (BELLY UP), but Teddy fills you in along the way as to what happened in that first adventure. As the cute cover hints, this is about Teddy being accused of stealing the zoo’s prized koala, on loan from Australia. It’s a bumpy ride as Teddy sneaks around trying to uncover the real thief.

Although I loved the story, a few things made me pause. First we have another in what seems like an endless number of books with a bully. Maybe its just me, but I’m getting rather tired of the bully theme.

My other point is less troublesome, but as Teddy narrated the story I caught him saying words I don’t even think I used in college: effusive, inexplicable, transgression, and alliteration to name a few. I’ve never heard any 12-year-old use those words.

Other than that, Teddy is a convincing preteen with not only a crime on his hands, but all the other pressures of  being a middle grade student. It’s enjoyable to read, though probably not for the reluctant reader with its long chapters and overall length.


FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  School troublemaker Vance Jessup thinks Teddy Fitzroy’s home at FunJungle, a state-of-the-art zoo and theme park, is the perfect place for a cruel prank. Vance bullies Teddy into his scheme, but the plan goes terribly awry.

Teddy sneaks into the koala exhibit to hide out until the chaos dies down. But when the koala goes missing, Teddy is the only person caught on camera entering and exiting the exhibit.

Teddy didn’t commit the crime—but if he can’t find the real culprit, he’ll be sent to juvie as a convicted koala-napper.


  1. You’ll learn about koalas and other animals as the tale unfolds. I feel like I could work at a zoo now. Well, maybe with a bit more training.
  2. It’s a solid mystery that had me guessing right to the end. I changed my mind several times as to who stole the koala.
  3. Great read-aloud for a classroom or those nighttime moments before bed.
  4. It’s nice to have a book with two loving parents in the background. Teddy will need both to solve the mystery. For once in my recent reading I’m not hearing about a single parent family, an orphan, or an adopted child trying to adjust.
  5. All the plot points are neatly tied up by page 329. Of course there is room for more future Fun Jungle adventures and I’d welcome a third if the author chooses to go that route.


(Note: I don’t normally choose the very first line in a book as my favorite, but this one is a classic.)

I would never have been accused of stealing the koala if Vance Jessup hadn’t made me drop a human arm in the shark tank.


Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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13 Responses to POACHED for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Sounds like a fun book for kids, especially with the zoo setting.

  2. Janet Smart says:

    That is quite a first line! And, I agree it is a tad long for a MG novel. In one of my MG manuscripts, I have one of my main characters using big words, but that is one of his trademarks, so to speak, so it is expected of him. Thanks for the review!

  3. That first line is a great hook for the story. I’d read it. Great review!

  4. Joanne Fritz says:

    Wow, that’s a pretty high word count for MG. And how interesting that the main character uses words like transgression and effusive. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word effusive, myself. But that opening line really is an attention-grabber.

  5. warrchick says:

    I feel compelled to tell you that as a geeky homeschooled kid that was closer to fictional characters than real people, I had that kind of vocab at 12, and the other kids I knew like me did, too. Teddy is supposed to have a pretty unusual background, right? But I don’t remember (from when I read the first one) how much of a reader he was.

    It sounds like a fun read, though, and I’d enjoy revisiting FunJungle! Thanks for the recommend!

    • I’ve come across kids with large vocabularies, but their usage was fairly constant. Teddy only throws in one of these words about every 50 pages or so. Seemed out of character from the way he normally talked. Anyway, I should have hung around you when I was that age since I’ve become somewhat of a word geek.

  6. Mark says:

    Warrchick is right. He’s traveled with his parents and spent little time being around normal 12-year-olds. The result could be that bigger vocabulary.

    I love all of Stuart’s books, however, so I’m biased. They are worth the high word count, at least for this adult who still breezes through them.

    And he has the best opening lines of any author I’ve read. My favorite may be from the first of his Last Musketeer series.

  7. I hadn’t heard of this series. I think I’d like it. I agree with you that that kind of vocabulary tossed in now and then is off-putting. If it’s there all along, then it just becomes part of the character, and I don’t have a problem with that. I like kid characters who challenge the norms. Thanks for telling me about this.

  8. msyingling says:

    Sooooo tired of bullies, especially since they are the stereotypical, swirlie giving kind that are NOT the kind that kids face today. I was also a bit bothered by Large Marge, but I do like this write as well as this series.

  9. sounds intriguing. I love books about zoos… and, like you, am getting “bully fatigue”

  10. Andrea says:

    I really enjoyed Belly Up! I hadn’t heard about this one, but now I want to read it!

  11. salarsen says:

    Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts on this one. The story does sound interesting and fun, especially because there’s a mystery to solve.

  12. Susan says:

    This sounds fun for several reasons, one of which is I have a soft spot for koalas. I, too, am tired of bullies, especially the old -fashioned stealing lunch money kind. I am also a stickler for authentic dialogue!

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