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Readers Advisory: Poached by Stuart Gibbs

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Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $15.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 1442467770, April 2014

Teddy Fitzroy’s back for another zoo mystery—this time it’s a koala caper—in this action-packed follow-up to Belly Up. 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.

I didn’t realize this was a sequel when I requested it, but like most adult mystery series, readers unfamiliar with the first book will have no trouble understanding and enjoying the second. I will probably go back and read Belly Up as well, though, just in case it’s as much fun as Poached.

Plenty of gross-out gags, occasional fun facts about animals slipped realistically into conversations, and madcap crime-solving strategies (wanna hide at an amusement park? steal a character costume!) will appeal to tween mystery and humor fans. Not only is the mystery well-plotted, the stakes are sky-high. If Teddy can’t solve the crime, he’ll go to juvie, sure. More importantly to Teddy and his parents, though, is the fact that koalas can only eat a specific and rare type of eucalyptus. If they don’t find Kazoo the koala soon, he will starve to death. Needless to say, all is solved in style, and a reunion with someone from the previous book leaves an opening for another installment.

Recommend to: Mystery fans, fans of Carl Hiaasen’s junior novels

To buy or not to buy: A great addition to any youth collection.

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