Follow TV Tropes


Literature / FunJungle

Go To

The FunJungle series by Stuart Gibbs (also author of the Spy School series, Bruce Wayne: Not Super, Charlie Thorne, and Moon Base Alpha trilogy). The books follow Teddy Fitzroy, the son of two employees at a combination zoo/theme park in Texas, getting involved with several mysteries with Summer, the park owner's daughter. The books in the series are:

1. Belly Up. Teddy investigates the mysterious death of the park's mascot, and star attraction Harry the Hippo, uncovering motives among the park staff ranging from smuggling to pure spite.

2. Poached. Teddy finds himself under suspicion when a koala on loan to the park is stolen.

3. Big Game. A mysterious poacher continuously attempts to kill one of the rhinos, leading to desperate efforts to stop the mystery criminal.

4. Panda-Monium. The park's new panda is stolen while in transit to the park.

5. Lion Down. A wild mountain lion is falsely accused of killing the dog of a controversial local celebrity, with Teddy and Summer trying to prove its innocence while hunters pursue the animal.

6. Tyrannosaurus Wrecks. Teddy and his friends find themselves looking into both the trafficking of exotic animals being sold in the area, and the theft of a t-rex skull from a nearby dig site, with Summer's father being one of the police's prime suspects.

7. Bear Bottom. Teddy’s family and several other FunJungle employees visit a ranch outside of Yellowstone National Park and find an adventure involving disappearing bison, a rambunctious grizzly bear, and a disappearing necklace.

8. Whale Done. A vacation to Malibu takes a dramatic turn when a whale turns up dead and explodes before it can be autopsied. Additionally, someone seems to be stealing sand from a local beach.


  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted. Teddy may be the one to solve the cases, but the adults take things seriously, often listen to him at the right points and can find out useful stuff on their own.
  • Always Identical Twins: Tim and Jim Barksdale, to the point that for a lot of the series, their practically The Dividual.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parent: Julie, one of the dig volunteers in the sixth book gets a couple "Mom!" Exclamations from her daughter for revealing she liked to pretend she was a stegosaurus on the playground in Kindergarten, and commenting about how she ogles over the local quarterback.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Doc Deakin's daughter's love for animals caused her to take part in bombing a meatpacking plant once, although by the main series her methods are less extreme, albeit still bending the law.
  • Bald of Evil: Walter Oglivy's saboteur Hank the Tank, and James von Amberg from Panda-Monium.
  • Benevolent Boss: Construction magnate Roswell Crowe from the eighth book has some Corrupt Corporate Executive moments (albeit as The Ghost), but there is a note in his former study talking about doing a job for the lifeguard on Crowe’s beach, with Crowe telling his workers to do the job for cost.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ethan and Dash saving Teddy form getting a swirly from Vance Jessup in the second book.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Petra Olson, a suspect in Lion Down, is a spindly blonde and rabid hunter who hates the Endangered Species Act and says that God chose not to protect animals when he gave humanity guns.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: One of Sumer's bodyguards turns out to be the Big Bad of the third book.
  • Brawn Hilda: Large Marge is a fairly hefty woman who spends the first three books with an irrational dislike for Teddy.
  • Breakout Character: In-Universe harry the Hippo was this to the TV show being used to promote Funjungle while it was under construction.
  • The Bully: Vance Jessup and the Barksdale twins.
  • Bully Hunter: Dash and Ethan are introduced showing up to stop Vance and the Barksdale twins from giving Teddy a Swirlie in a Disgusting Public Toilet.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Several characters apply,
  • Class Princess: Head cheerleader Violet is part of a clique that is called "The Royals" on occasion but is always friendly and helpful toward the narrator, his nerdy best friend, and the student body at large.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Lincoln Stone's brother Walter, whose a vice-president at his company but never does anything besides parrot his brother on social media. Jeb Weems in the sixth book is also said to mooch off of his cousin Harper on occasion.
  • Cool Big Bro: Xavier's brother is willing to help him try to impress a girl and give him rides.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: J.J.'s rival Harlan Oglivy, who has been trying to sabotage the park since before he was mentioned. J.J. himself can let profit cloud his judgment and isn't afraid to twist Teddy's arm for something, although his conscience generally prevails. The parks initial manager Martin Del Gatto also tried to run it like a corporation, ignoring how the animals are more fragile than that and got involved in smuggling jewels from South America to cover his losses.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: An animal version in Lion Down, where the missing dog was fatally hit on the head by a boy it was in the process of biting, with his family covering it up to avoid legal troubles from the dogs powerful and unpleasant owner.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Large Marge O'Malley can be an unreasonable Inspector Javert with moments of cringeworthy ignorance. However, on several occasions she either captures or incapacitates a dangerous antagonist or keeps a cool head while facing a potential animal attack.
    Large Marge (after punching out the Big Bad of the first book): Who're you calling incompetent?
  • Daddy's Girl: Summer's desire to have a safari (at a time when she was too young to go abroad for one) helped inspire J.J. to make the park, and he tends to give up on his more selfish business plans when she finds out and gets upset about them.
  • Dirty Coward: Nearly all villains tend to cringe, whine and beg when threatened with jail time or thinking they're being attacked by dangerous creatures.
  • Dumb Muscle: The entire Barksdale family has a reputation for being thuggish morons.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Zigzagged, as Violet's aunt and uncle run a game farm, but, along with most of their clients, are also conservationists who see their efforts as helping preserve animals (although Summer points out this is partially so they can continue to hunt them in the future). Played straight with the mysterious poacher from the third book, and Lincoln Stone and most of the people his bounty attracts in Lion Down, although a hunter from that same book subverts this by having only been hired by J.J. to frighten the lion away from the park (and not actually kill it) and ends up saving Teddy's life at one point.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Athmani who takes part in the rhino poaching incident in the third book for much-needed money, despite years of having prevented poaching as a game warden and because the plan involves getting rhinos de-horned without killing them, supposedly as a precaution against the poacher.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": "Doc" Deakin. It isn't until Whale Done that Teddy and Summer learn his first name is Ed, and the only one to use it is Doc's colleague and Love Interest Cass.
  • Evil Poacher: People who exploit and/or kill wildlife appear fairly often and are consistently portrayed as despicable.
  • Fat Best Friend: Xavier Gonzalez serves as this to Teddy, who is much sillimer than him.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: A few of the animals throughout the series, such as the Barksdale's (illegally-purchased) pet alligator Snappy.
  • Friend on the Force: Fish and Wildlife officer Tommy Lopez, in the fifth and sixth books. Security Chief Honneker has shades of this by the fourth book, although he still answers to J.J. before letting them in the loop.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Most of the main characters.
  • Girls with Moustaches: In the first book Charlie Connors (who has a history with the dead hippo) mentions that when he was bitten by Henry the Hipo at his previous job (a circus) his life was saved by Bettina the bearded lady. She took a lot of testosterone every morning to get that beard, which also made her strong enough to pry the hippo's mouth open.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Large Marge and her sister Molly (an FBI agent) have one of these going on, although neither of them really qualifies as especially smarter.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In Panda-monium a variation of this happens when a dolphin keeps stealing swimsuits off of people's bodies as they swim.
  • Good Parents: Teddy's mom and Dad are always there for him, and for all of his flaws, J.J. works hard to give Summer a good childhood.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Most of FunJungle's security guards only work there because they couldn't get hired as real cops and tend to make a lot of silly mistakes.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Doc in the first book, who is sick of what he's been blackmailed into doing and is preparing to turn in the evidence. It's enough to keep him from getting arrested or fired.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Pete's husband Ray sleeps through a bear attack and once slept through a flight where horrible turbulence made every other passenger scream or vomit.
  • Hidden Depths: In Whale Done, Gabriel, the hulking security guard for the estate of millionaire movie star Jackson Cross who initially tries to detain Teddy on Cross's orders, turns our to be a passionate environmentalist who first took the job due to how his favorite breed of fish lays eggs on the beach. He turns on Cross after learning he has been endangering the eggs while illegally stealing sand to replenish his beach.
  • High Heel Hurt: A fleeing culprit in Whale Done, is slowed down a lot by her spiky high heels.
  • Hired for Their Looks: Kristy the koala keeper does love animals, but has no real experience and was hired for being attractive. Eventually, after making a costly mistake by not locking the koala enclosure, she's transferred to the PR department.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: An accidental example in Lion Down, where one of the guards trying to figure out whose been making the giraffes sick is the one whose been doing it themselves (by innocently feeding them a plant that they have a bad reaction with).
  • Inspector Javert:
    • Large Marge O'Malley spends the first three utterly obsessed with proving Teddy is guilty of something and getting him thrown out of the park after he pulls a prank on her.
    • Sheriff Esquiviel and his deputies are quick to try and arrest J.J. for the dinosaur theft in the sixth book on circumstantial grounds. This conduct becomes a lot less professional-looking when Summer reveals that the sheriff has a long-term grudge against J.J. for stealing his girlfriend in High School.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The chaotic climax of Whale Done takes place at a Hollywood party. The host is more amused than offended and, after learning that this kind of thing happens to Teddy a lot, proposes making a movie about him.
  • Ironic Fear: Aerospace CEO Harper Weems is afraid of flying.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sheriff Esquiviel's refusal to properly investigate the missing dinosaur skull in the sixth book is portrayed unsympathetically, but even Teddy and Summer acknowledge that he has a point about how there would/should be signs of excavation in the mud if it had been stolen.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chief Honneeker is kind of gruff and proud, but is dedicated to the job and becomes a more reliable ally after the first time he sees Teddy solve a case. J.J. himself also applies, being a tough, proift-obsessed businessman who doesn't always have Teddy's best interests at heart, but is generally grateful at the end of a case and is capable of decent and generous deeds.
  • Kid Detective: Teddy, who is the one to solve all eight cases (although by the third book he's a little reluctant to get novel in them and sometimes has to be cajoled into doing so).
  • Kindly Vet: Doc Deakin is a real curmudgeon but he absolutely won't tolerate any harm coming to animals. unless you're threatening to turn his Animal Wrongs Group member daughter in to the police if he interferes with your plans to force animals to swallow smuggled goods.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Due to his ignorance of animals, Pete sometimes falls victim to this during his PR events, such as claiming that the main food source for coyotes are roadrunners.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Various antagonists often suffer from this, such as the zebra spanker having a humiliating video of himself being attacked by otters after a smoothie that was thrown in his face.
  • Little People: The park employs a few little people to wear animal costumes with one, Charlie Connors, being a suspect on two occasions.
  • Locked Room Mystery:
    • In Poached, no one can figure out how anyone could have broken into the koala enclosure without setting off alarms, or without being caught on the security cameras. It turns out that the crime actually happened a day earlier, at a time when the door was unlocked, and Large Marge hadn't thought to check the tapes that far back.
    • In the "Panda-monium'', no one can figure out how the thieves managed to break into a moving trailer truck and snatch the panda (and Doc Deakin). The truck driver drugged the guard with him (Large Marge) and pulled over to the side of the road to where the thieves were waiting with a second trailer with nearly identical furnishings. They then switched trailers, and the thieves left with the trailer containing the panda to make it seem that the theft occurred while the truck was moving.
    • In Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, the T-Rex skull disappeared from the (very muddy) dig without anyone leaving footprints, during the middle of a storm which would have prevented anything like a helicopter from taking it. The thieves rolled the skull on logs, dragging a board behind them to hide their new tracks, then reburied it about thirty feet away from the original excavation site so they could come back for it later.
    • In Bear Bottom, Kandace's valuable necklace disappears from her room, and she'd been alone, behind a locked door except for a brief period where several people chase a rampaging bear inside. The culprit got in through a Prohibition-era secret passage.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Summer doesn't have too many friends until meeting Teddy and later moving to his school, and still takes a while to fit in there afterwards.
  • Lovable Jock: Basketball stars Ethan and Dash, who befriend Teddy in the second book and are sometimes willing to help him out in later books.
  • Manly Gay: The seventh book reveals that Pete Thwacker is married to a man named Ray who works as a carpenter, loves the outdoors, and has gone running with the bulls in Spain.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Zigzagged in Bear Bottom when Teddy and his new friend Evan are searching the living spaces of some suspects who work at the ranch (with Teddy also mentioning that his own room isn't that clean). Gavin's room is "extremely tidy" and his bed is made "with military precision." Zach's room is covered with discarded clothing (including socks "so encrusted with dirt that they were hardened into a piece of sculpture"), half-eaten food with mold and fungus colonies, and garbage everywhere "except in the garbage can."
    The chimpanzees at FunJungle kept their living space tidier. I could barely see the floor through all the dirty clothes[.]
  • Misery Poker: In Bear Bottom, Teddy and his new friend Evan get into a lighthearted version of this.
    Evan: Want to trade places? I live miles away from all my friends, the cell reception stinks, and you can't walk five feet without stepping in buffalo poop.
    'Teddy:; I live in a mobile home next to the employee parking lot for a theme park.
    Evan: Really? Forget trading places. Your home might actually be crummier than mine.
  • Missing Mom: Downplayed, but Summer's mother doesn't like Texas much and spends most of her time at the families other houses, rarely appearing in the series.
  • Morality Pet: The Barksdale's have a cat that they like (it's pretty mean though) and are upset when a snake eats it.
  • Mysterious Past: No one knows if Chief Honneker was in military intelligence or regular law enforcement, just that he has a background in one of them.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: A non-human example is provided by Harry the Hippo, who has attacked various people at the past circuses an zoos he works, and enjoys squirting poop at anyone who gets too close to him, but is beloved due to the merchandising from the television show where he's the main character.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe Pete Thwacker eventually notices how much attention the various disasters that befall upon the park get for visitors and stops making any efforts to disguise them, while encouraging J.J. to wait longer to clean up any damage people might be coming to see.
  • Not Me This Time: Walter Oglivy's saboteur in Poached had nothing to do with the stolen koala.
  • Only in Florida: In the sixth book Summer tells Teddy about all of the Zebra spanker copycats and notes there's a guy in Miami who punched a kangaroo, but isn't really a true copycat since he didn't do it for social media fame, but because he drunkenly believed the kangaroo made a face at him. She then adds that kinds of thing apparently happens a lot in Florida.
  • Papa Wolf: Teddy's father. His mother is also a Mama Bear but his father gets to show it more. In the first book when he hears someone might be trying to kill Teddy because He Knows Too Much he flies half way around the world in thirty hours to get back there (having to ride in the back of several trucks and such) and shows up just in time to use a broom handle and some stern words to drive back a tiger that has been released in another murder attempt and is approaching his wife and son.
  • The Paralyzer: The park security force uses stun guns. In Panda-monium guard Kevin Wilks tris to stop a fleeing criminal with his stun gun but trips over a little kid as he's about to shoot and accidentally tasers an old lady instead (although the crook then trips over her and knocks himself out).
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Violet, the middle schools head cheerleader, is fairly down to Earth and part of Teddy's circle of friends by the end of the second book, often volunteering to help out Teddy and Summer with their investigations.
  • The Quiet One: In Bear Bottom, it takes two days for Teddy to hear ranch hand Gavin utter a single word. That being said, he is happy to talk about how much he loves living in Montana and has no ambition to see anything or anywhere else (except maybe the New York subway).
  • Rank Up: Large Marge gets promoted to head of security at the end of the first book after capturing the fleeing villain (something Teddy and Summer consider a lucky fluke on her part), but is demoted twice over the following books for various failures.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tracey Boyd and Juvenile services officer Bubba Stackhouse are give Kid Detective Teddy the beneift of the doubt a lot in the second book. Ultimately Chief Honneker staets acting the same way starting by the end of book 3.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Doc Deakin's daughter is mentioned to have joined an environmental group that literally conduct operations near Antarctica, partially in order to lay low due to her Animal Wrongs Group acts.
  • Redeeming Replacement: Tracey Boyd, who succeeds Martin Del Gatto as park manager, actually does love animals, is willing to give Teddy a lot of leeway, orders the security force not to automatically assume his guilt in the koala theft, and while she does threaten to fire Teddy's parents, only does so on J.J.'s orders (something she doesn't reveal to Teddy when it would have been easy to try and paint J.J. as the bad guy). Unfortunately, she ends up suffering a nervous breakdown between books, causing her to leave the park.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Arthur Koenig, a keeper who rats Teddy out to park security in Poached later gets into hot water himself for illegally selling pictures of the new tiger cubs.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: In Bear Bottom, Evan, the video-game-playing ranch kid, is a surprisingly good tracker. He can determine how fast a bear was moving and when a sneaker print was made while following tracks indoors.
  • Serial Spouse: The father of one of the Spoiled Brats who gets tricked into blowing up a whale carcass before an autopsy in Whale Done is on his sixth or seventh wife, and it's implied that no one but Gold Diggers will marry him due to his obnoxious personality and fondness for Frivolous Lawsuits.
  • Series Continuity Error: Doc calls his daughter Susie in the first book, but her name is Lily in Lion Down.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Typically, when P.R. head Pete Thwacker shows up, his immaculate appearance gets mentioned.
  • Slave to PR: Pete Thwacker, although public relations are his job.
  • Social Media Before Reason:
    • Quite a few people following a trend of streaming videos of themselves spanking zoo animals in Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, are mentioned as having been badly injured in the process.
    • In Bear Bottom, a tourist named Morton provokes a herd of elk while taking selfies, then continues taking selfies in the middle of being chased by an angry bull elk that gouges his butt. Then immediately after getting out of the hospital, he climbs into an angry rodeo bull's pen for another selfie and ends up being chased into an outhouse, which gets knocked over, leaving him Covered in Gunge.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: At the end of the first book, the murdered hippo turns out to have impregnated the one female hippo in the enclosure.
    J.J.: Henry Hippo Jr. I believe we can market that.
  • Southern Belle: Animal collector Flora Hancock is an aging one.
  • Suspect Is Hatless:
    • Summer deliberately wears a lot of pink all the time in public so that if she puts something else on over it, she can slip past her bodyguards and/or the press easier.
    • In Whale Done, one of the pawns of a woman who blew up a beached whale carcass can't remember anything about her besides that she was pretty, probably between twenty and thirty, and had a funny laugh (although that last detail eventually comes in handy). While he was drunk at the time of their first meeting and she wore a floppy hat and sunglasses during their second meeting, the heroes are exasperated that he can't even remember her hair color.
  • Those Two Guys: Dash and Ethan are always seen or mentioned together, and occasionally have some comic banter while learning details about the newest case from Teddy and Summer.
  • Toilet Humor: A decent amount of comedy comes from things like Henry Hippo firing his poop at anyone standing near his enclosure.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Teddy generally simultaneously investigates multiple shenanigans at the park or anywhere else he is staying, such as how one of the primates has been getting out of its cage at the same time he looks into the rhino poacher, or whose been swimming in the dolphin tank at night during the panda kidnapping.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Pete Thwacker has his share of screw-ups and annoying moments (mainly in the first two books) but his skills as a promotor and spin doctor for the park are good enough to ensure that he stays hired, and trusted.
  • The Un-Reveal: In Lion Down, the pickup truck of one suspect is registered to a woman named Cassie Martinez, who is obviously not the male driver. Teddy and the others speculate what kind of relationship Cassie and the driver may have (siblings, spouses, boyfriend-girlfriend, or just platonic friends), but this is never revealed, even after they find the person who was driving the pickup on the night of the crime.
  • The War on Straw: Many (although not all) anti-environmentalist characters fall into this category to this, such as Lincoln Stone, a conservative radio commentator (and the owner of the dead dog from the fifth book) and morally bankrupt liar who wants to abolish the Endangered Species Act.