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Literature / Swindle

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Swindle is a 2008 book by Gordon Korman. The book centers on sixth grader Griffin Bing, who thinks he has found the solution to his family's money problems when he finds a Babe Ruth baseball card in a condemned house. However, a dealer rips him off, and he gathers a group of his peers to help him reclaim what is rightfully his. The book was made into a film in 2013 and was followed by a number of sequels:

Zoobreak (2009)

Framed (2010)

Showoff (2012)

Hideout (2013)

Jackpot (2014)

Unleashed (2015)

Jingle (2016)

The Swindle series contains examples of the following tropes:

Because of many spoileriffic moments, beware of spoilers! You have been warned!

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    Tropes Of The Series In General 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: It isn't specified on which year each story takes place, but given that Swindle has October 16 on a Thursday, April 15 on a Wednesday, and other clues, this means the series starts off in the year 2014. And since the first book was released in 2008, this makes most of the books technically this trope.
  • Brick Joke: Crops up from time to time at least once a book.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Griffin is usually very good at first planning in full detail and not letting any clues left behind. However, when a certain clue is left behind that the police catch, this could spell disaster upon the main six, and it usually does.
  • Exact Words: What our six heroes deploy to cover up their signs to getting caught, along with Metaphorically True.
  • Free-Range Children: Granted, this series DOES have limits, but Griffin and his team venture into this trope frequently within their antics around Cedarville.
  • The Ghost: The girls of the team (Savannah, Pitch, and Melissa) are said to have brothers and sisters mentioned plenty of times, yet they have never appeared at all.
  • Insistent Terminology: Plenty of characters use these, but the one who uses this the most by far is Savannah. Animals in her house are not pets, they are family members. Also, an animal shouldnít be referred to as "it", but as "him" or "her".
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The fact that Ben has narcolepsy is referenced in the rest of the series, as it impedes further missions and he gets a ferret as a medical animal to control it.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The small town that the main group live in, Cedarville, is located in Nassau County in New York. With the correct calculations, it appears that "Cedarville" is based on Cedarhurst, which is also a small town in Nassau County in real life.
  • One-Word Title: All of the books in the series have this.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A frequent staple throughout the series. Most notably when Griffin gives up on a mission, which shocks his friends.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Griffin and his gang get so many of these that it can quite shameful for them.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: This is known to the team as "Code Z"; when a plan is reaching the stage of failure and exposure, the best course of action is to flee the scene.
  • Suddenly Significant City: Quiet, sleepy Cedarville suddenly goes on the map with the adventures of the six most famous children there.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: This series frequently dedicates itself to this formula. It exemplifies that actions have consequences, and what results in our six heroes throughout their adventures is very detailed and realistic.
  • Tempting Fate: Often, when a character comments that things seem to be looking up for them, that's when disaster strikes.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The six children of the story get plenty of these throughout their long run.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The team uses this tactic plenty of times in their plans.

  • Agony of the Feet: During the break-in at the Palomino house, Pitch jumps into the open skylight which causes the ledge that the climbing harness ropes are wrapped around to break. This in turn causes her to fall, and Griffin and Darren rush in to prevent her from hitting the ground. They catch most of her, but not enough to prevent her foot from hitting the floor. This sprains her foot and ankle, and gives her a heavy limp for the rest of the book.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: It turns out that a day before the night of the break-in, Swindle rented a second guard dog, a massive German Shepherd that's even bigger than Luthor. Savannah finds this out the hard way, and barely escapes from an attack. And when it gets loose, they barely manage to distract it as it's fighting the smaller Luthor.
  • Analogy Backfire: Griffin keeps thinking and explaining to his friends and family that he's not stealing the baseball card, he's taking back what's rightfully his. He compares it to a person repossessing a car, which is perfectly legal. But when Griffin actually does the deed, the authorities don't exactly agree with his thinking, and believe it rightfully belongs with the Rockdale family.
  • And Then What?: Griffin has himself thinking this in his room after the police search through his house following the home invasion with a large amount of evidence left behind leading to him, as well as his parents chewing him out.
Did he expect Swindle to give up without a fight, or the police to call off the investigation when the first search turned out nothing? If that wasn't bad enough, he also gave zero consideration for his parents. Like maybe they wouldn't notice anything unusual going on. Was he crazy, or just stupid? He certainly didn't have the right to call himself the Man With The Plan anymore.
  • Anger Born of Worry: When the parents of the heist members find out about what their children did, they are mentioned to be very angry with them for doing such a thing, including Ben's mother who allegedly yelled at him for an hour.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: When Griffin is asking what he thinks of the break-in plan to Ben in the cafeteria, his nurse comes in to say that she thinks itís time for his allergy nap.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Griffin arrives home after the break-up, he sees flashing police cars parked on the front driveway of the Bing house. He is initially shocked and thinks that it's because of the home invasion. But it turns out that it was because Mr. Bing had called the cops because of the SmartPick prototype that Griffin had taken from the garage that he used in obtaining the baseball card.
  • Batman Gambit: The plan Darren comes up with to get Mr. Palomino out of the house. They buy a ticket to a popular sports football game, which happens to be take place the night of the break-in, that is "mistakenly" sent to him by a nephew. This would trigger Mr. Palomino's greed and he swallows the bait, which leaves his house alone for the team to get in there and get the baseball card.
  • Bat Scare: While investigating the abandoned Rockdale house in the beginning, a bat attacks Griffin, going through his curly hair with its claws.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: After the heist, Griffin believes that there is a police officer secretly around the corner watching his every move. And when he actually goes to get the baseball card to the location he mailed it to, they indeed were watching the place and catch him there.
  • Big "NO!": Griffin internally does this as well as a Rapid-Fire "No!" when Pitch calls him to let him know that she was forced to rat him out to the police because of her parents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The team ends up getting caught, gain intense police suspicion, and Griffin has to give up the card because of inheritance issues. However, because of the publicity of the SmartPick's used in the robbery, this solves the financial problems that the Bing family has been going through. In addition, the money used in the card selling helped create the skateboarding park concept that Griffin wanted to be approved in the first place.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Griffin is entirely right in pointing out that how Swindle cheated him out of the baseball card is incredibly deceitful. But Ben and Savannah (whom were initially opposed to his heist plan) point out that if they pull off the heist, the authorities won't automatically think that he was taking back what was rightfully his, he's just stealing it.
  • Brick Joke: Griffin recalled how Darren spread a rumor at school that he was related to the Rockdales, the owners of the abandoned house that is about to be demolished. This rumor turns out to be true, as he is the youngest relative of the Rockdale lady that inherited the Babe Ruth baseball card. And when it is sold, all the money goes to him.
  • Brutal Honesty: When Savannah gets suspicious and asks Griffin and Ben what they are REALLY doing asking her to call Luthor down for, Griffin thinks that he can't sugarcoat it, so he just outright says it to her.
Griffin: We need you to calm the dog down so we can break into the store and steal a baseball card. (Savanna's mouth drops open in shock) But it's not as bad as it sounds! We'll give you a cut of the money!
  • Call-Forward: Ben goes to the nurse constantly for his "allergy" treatment. This will become a much bigger issue in the next book.
  • Caper Crew: With some variation because they are all eleven-year-old kids. Griffin is the Mastermind, his best friend Logan is the Partner in Crime, and Melissa is the Hacker. Logan, who is an actor, plays the part of the Conman, and bully Darren is the Muscle. Pitch, who loves to climb takes the role of the Burglar. Since the main security of the comic shop, they plan to rob is a vicious Doberman, instead of a Safe Cracker, they recruit "Animal Whisperer" Savannah to deal with it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Smart Pick. Griffin races back home and to the Palomino house in order to retrieve the baseball card that was stuck to the top of a tree that Darren was about to get.
  • Cutting the Knot: Discussed. When Mr. Palomino puts the baseball card in a safe, Griffin and Ben point out that thieves invading the place can just steal the safe and walk out. This amuses Palomino, who suggests that the boys try it out themselves. It turns out that the safe is actually bolted to the floor.
  • Delicious Distraction: When the second guard dog charges at Savannah who is trying to soothe him, Luthor gets in the way and battles the huge German Shepherd. Desperate to save Luthor from getting hurt, Savannah looks through the house refrigerator for some steak to distract the guard dogs from killing each other. She gets one out, which the dogs promptly chew on.
  • Destination Defenestration: When Darren ends up stuck in a tree at the Palomino residence, the branch under him starts to break. This branch then breaks away and swings toward the size of the house, hitting a window and breaking through it. Darren is miraculously not seriously injured, but breaking this window activated the house alarm and causes the team to get out of there before the cops arrive.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Griffin goes to Mr. Palomino's auction house trying to see if he can get a fortune out of the Babe Ruth card. What he didn't take into account is that "Swindle" would trick him by creating this elaborate lie that it's practically worthless and give him far less money than it's actually worth.
  • Double Take: While biking home all alone, Ben passes by the Bing home out of reflex. There he sees a home seller putting out a sign that says, "For Sale". This causes Ben to veer off course staring at it in shock and getting into an accident. This incident also gives him a reality check of the Bing family situation and why Griffin wants the card back so bad.
  • Dramatic Spotlight: When Griffin sneaks out at night to the demolished Rockdale (the place that he mailed the baseball card to in order to lead the police off his scent) he goes to the mailbox to retrieve the card. But it turns out that the police were monitoring the place on account of what one of the heist members had told them, and they turned on the floodlights that surrounded the place, catching Griffin in the act.
  • Eye Contact as Proof: On the plan that Griffin wrote to show to his classmates in order to stay in the Rockdale residence at night, one of the notes to make eye contact with your parents in order for them to accept the lie.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: When Pitch gets her invitation to the ballroom that she was chosen for her special skills (for the heist), Darren happened to be curious and looked over her shoulder to see what was on the slip of paper. This clued him in that there was to be a cash reward, and so he went to this meeting at the time it was set and learned about what was going on, which made him want to team up to get a cut of the money.
  • Foreshadowing: Ben has been shown to fall asleep easily. This is a tip off that he has narcolepsy, a fact that he tells Griffin before they go on the heist.
  • Freudian Slip: When asked why the baseball card is so cold on TV, Mr. Palomino replies that it's for all the "cold hard cash" that the card is worth. This is a tip off that he isn't actually keeping the card hidden in his safe, but in a heat cavity deep in a frozen turkey he bought.
  • Gossip Evolution: The rumors of how the Rockdale residence got abandoned led to one involving the owner being killed with a railroad spike to the head, to one about how he was killed by a possessed pet.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • All the media attention that Mr. Palomino rouses up with the baseball card turns against him when the media finds out that he got that card in the first place by ripping off a little boy. Thus, the town and the country realizes how untrustworthy he is, and stop costing his shop. That, and because of his now sudden unpopularity, he decides to close down his shop and leave town.
    • The baseball ticket that Griffin and Ben buy to get the man out of the house came from the cash that he gave them in exchange for the baseball card. Griffin lampshades that it felt satisfying how this was instrumental in his downfall.
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze: While Griffin is explaining his strategy to his picks for the heist, a spying Darren sneezes from behind a pile of balls. This alerts the team that their secret might get out.
  • Insistent Terminology: Griffin insists to his friends (and later his parents) that he is not "stealing" the baseball card, he is taking back what was rightfully his. Unfortunately, when the news gets out, the police do not quite see it that way.
  • I Was Just Joking: Mr. Martinez, the class teacher, has this when Pitch is called to the office after Darren (because it was discovered by the police that both had a role in the heist).
    Mr.Martinez: What's with our class today? Did you guys rob a bank or something? [frowns at the raw fear on Pitch's face as she limps out the door] I was only kidding.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: As they are about to begin the heist, Ben brings Griffin aside and informs him of his narcolepsy, which means that he could suddenly fall asleep while on the harness up the roof and bring the whole team down. Upon realizing this, he asks Melissa to switch places with him and have him be a lookout.
  • Just a Kid: Griffin is thoroughly confronted with this problem, much to his fury. When the Rockdale house was planning to be torn down, he and some other classmates made a project to present to the construction to the committee to turn the lot into a skating park, but they just brushed the students off.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: After Darren crashes into a window after falling form a tree trying to get the card, Pitch pulls him up and screams if he is okay. After he sheepishly confirms, she punches him in the stomach while he is cut and bruised for betraying them and giving her worry.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Savannah was tricked by Griffin and Ben to calm Luthor down by being told that they were afraid of them, when really they were wanting her to do so as part of a plan to break into the store. When she gets suspicious and finally hears what the real deal is, she is furious and hurt that they used her like this, especially for an animal.
  • Loose Lips: When all of the members of the heist are questioned by the police, one of them got way into details and explained how Mr. Wendell cheated Griffin out of the card. This caused a newspaper to print this story, which got the town gossiping against Mr. Wendell and ruining his reputation.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: When Griffin's parents find out about their son's exploits and have their house searched by the police, they are furious at him and wonder if they taught him that stealing was okay.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Ben and Griffin briefly break off their friendship do to disagreements on getting the card back, the rest of their classmates take notice.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: When Griffin and Ben argue in the school library about how their heist should work, Mr. Martinez is nearby and hears them talking, and thinks they are talking about a school project involving a hypothetical heist and the boys go along with it, and he gives them some pointers. What he didn't know was that they were planning a real heist and he was unwittingly aiding them
  • Pushed at the Monster: When Luthor shows up as the heist team breaks in, he charges at them. Griffin pushes Savannah in his path to soothe the dog, which works.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Darren ends up gaining the baseball card money by relation to the owner, but because his parents don't want him to benefit from a robbery he took part in, they force him to donate most of it to the town center.
  • Red Alert: When Griffin and Ben look up the security alarm type that Mr. Palomino installed in his house, they find that it's the same type of loud alarm that is installed in submarines. And when it goes off, which it does, it elicits an alarm that shrills.
  • Rousing Speech: Griffin does this to the rest of the heist members to convince them to join them in the plan, appealing to the reward they will get and stand up to an adult who cheated big time on a child.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Darren becomes this in the heist by blackmail. He is required to bring a large collapsible adder to the site and hoist the members on harnesses.
  • Slumber Party: Griffin hosts one at the Rockdale site to get back at the adults for dismissing their skatepark idea. But because the rest unexpectedly have plans, only him and Ben show up.
  • Soft Glass: Averted. When Darren falls off a branch and sideways through a window, he gets cuts and bruises.
  • So Long, Suckers!: When the heist team finally locate and retrieve the Babe Ruth card, Darren takes that moment to snatch it from Griffin's hand. As he is leaving, he yells "Sayonara, suckers!" at the team. This prompts them to chase after him and get the card back.
  • Something We Forgot: When the team scatter as the police come, Darren asks the others to help him carry the ladder, but they refuse. So he is forced to leave it at the crime scene for the police to find. This comes back to bite them when the ladder is traced back to Darren, and he is called to the front office during school for questioning. Griffin even questions how he could have been so foolish to leave it there.
At the time, it seemed like Darren's problem and his alone. But now, Griffin realized with horror, that one caught team member could be the stepping stone for the whole team.
  • Spit Take: While playing backgammon with Mr. Mulroney, Logan spits out his ginger ale onto the table when he mentions that there are two guard dogs in the Palomino house. This disgusts Mr. Mulroney.
  • Spy Speak: While on the phone with Griffin, Ben tries to do this to see if he knows anything about the card, Griffin does not want this, because the police might have bugged his phone.
  • The Stool Pigeon: When Darren wants in on the heist, Griffin at first refuses. But Darren adds that if he ends up leaving, he is going straight to Mr. Palomino. This shocks Griffin, and he eventually relents.
    • And after the heist is done, even though he betrayed them, he still wants a cut of it. When Pitch incredulously tells him that he doesn't deserve a cent, Darren replies that he could turn them in if they don't.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: At the heist, a deliveryman comes casually in the place to pick up the card. He unwittingly releases the backup security guard, and he barely runs to the basement to escape. He stays there during the rest of the operation.
  • Stunned Silence: When being reprimanded by his parents for this whole fiasco, Griffin points out that part of the reason he did this was to so;ve the money problems his family was facing. His parents respond with this trope.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Even though Griffin despises him and especially now when he betrayed him, he is horrified when Darren is knocked into the house through the window and appears to be dead. But when he seems him roll over by himself, he feels relieved.
  • Tempting Fate: When CNN calls the baseball card heist a "professional job", Griffin speculates that this means they are safe, because most people don't suspect kids to be professional in heists. But then Savannah by the window directs their attention to two squad cars parked in the front driveway of their school.
  • There Are No Coincidences: This is Head Officer Vizzini's logic as part of the reason that he suspects Griffin to have stolen the card.
    Officer Vizzini: I know for a fact that two of my officers were here last night when you arrived home with your father thingamagic. The timing would have been just right. And I've been a cop long enough not to believe in coincidences.
  • Training the Pet: This book contains a variation. As part of The Caper, the kids have to get past a vicious guard dog named Luther. So they recruit "animal whisperer" Savannah to befriend Luthor so that the rest of them can steal the Babe Ruth trading card. She succeeds so well that she adopts Luther after the caper and he is her pet for the rest of the series.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: This is where Mr. palomino ended up hiding the Babe Ruth card. When the safe turned out to not have it, Griffin comes across the turkey. Connecting the dots about what he heard about the state of the card on television, he thrusts his hand into the turkey and brings out a plastic bag containging the card.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: After the heist, the six main team members reluctantly keep Darren in the loop so he doesn't rat on them.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When Mr. Mulroney hears commotion during the heist, he goes to call the cops. Logan springs from his chair and dives into some bushes, leaving him injured and Mr. Mulroney to stay and tend to him. This buys the team some time.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Mulroney says this to Logan during their backgammon game. It was actually because Logan was frightened by the fact that the courier for the baseball card has arrived at the Palomino house.

  • Adults Are Useless: After noticing Cleopatra as part of All Aboard Animals and Mr. Nastase refusing to let her get her, Savannah tries to appeal to Mr. Martinez to do something. But he can only offer her lame apologizes and not do anything. To be fair, as he says, he is only a teacher and doesn't have any right to intervene.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: As a way to get inside the boat at night and unlock the front for the rest of the team, Griffin enlists Ben, the shortest member of the group, to go through an air vent through the All Aboard Animals steamboat. This trope is play realistically. Even though Ben is quite small for an 11-year old, he can barely fit in the passageway, and has trouble navigating through it.
  • And I Must Scream: When Ben stumbles upon a vent through Klaus's cabin, he accidentally knocks down on top of him. He barely manages to get back into the vent, but an enraged Klaus follows him through the opening. Except, Ben was barely able to fit in there himself, and a massive bodyguard like Klaus wouldn't make it far at all. Indeed, his body gets stuck in the opening.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Not only did Mr. Nastase run his zoo like an infected prison, buy many kidnapped animals to use as exhibits, and train the owl to guard the place at night, he was also apparently a part of a ring of criminals that kidnapped animals themselves and sold them. After Nastase is arrested, he tells the police about them, which leads to them being presumably arrested.
  • Batman in My Basement: Because the only zookeeper Savannah knows is out of town for two weeks, she and the team have to keep the rescued animals at their homes for the time being. Griffin hides the rodent and mongoose animals, Ben hides the chuckwalla and ferret, Savannah hides the custom habitat animals, Pitch hides the temperate forest animals, Melissa hides the split-level prairie animals, and Logan hides the underground wetlands animals. As the team's desperate attempts to tend to and hide the animals from their parents and neighbors causes problems, to the point that they agree to take them and break into an actual zoo.
  • Big "NO!": Darren has one in his dream in which a judge sentences him to fifty years in juvenile detention for his role in the zoobreak.
  • Bribe Backfire: Having captured Hoo the owl, Darren approaches Mr. Nastase and Klaus at a restaurant and offers them a proposition for money. But the two zookeepers quickly realize that he's part of the original team that broke into All Aboard Animals and stole all their exhibits. They force him to find out where the rest of the animals are, because if he doesn't, they'll call the police on him. The terrified Darren is forced to obey.
  • Brick Joke: After breaking the animals out of the steamboat, the team finds to their horror that the dory that they used to row to the place had drifted from its' knot and floated away. At the end of the boat, when Klaus has to sail it away as his final task as employee of it, it turns out that the remains of dory had been broken up in the shaft, which unloaded onto the deck.
  • Camera Abuse: As part of their operation to observe the steamboat, the team goes to the zoo and plant tiny surveillance cameras around the area. One of the cameras is placed inside of the boat itself, which Griffin, Ben, and Melissa watch at one point. They see a "monster" fly over to it, rip it up with a glimpse of claws, and the screen goes to static. Later on, it turns out that was the owl exhibit that was loosened out of its' cage by Mr. Nastase to patrol the boat at night.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The security suitcase that Griffin used as a stepstool to get Ben up a vent si brought back for a bigger part of the operation. When the dory that the team were planning on using to escape floats away, Griffin grabs the suitcase and pulls a cord to transform it into a life raft, giving the team and the animals a ride home.
    • Also, the Rollo-Bushel invention vehicles that Mr. Bing was working on is what the team uses to take the animals and drive to the Long Island Zoo.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Ferret Face, the ferret that Ben had been keeping refuge in his house as part of Operation Zoobreak, ends up being the reason Ben gets to stay in Cedarville instead of being sent to boarding school. Because it kept nipping at him to keep him awake instead of sleeping, this gives the ferret a medical necessity to Ben.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: When the team manage to lose the dory (which they also conveniently got off the beach when Darren didn't show up with his father's boat), they manage to get a life raft that was stowed away on the ship, to bring them back to Cedarville.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover depicts part of the animals on All Aboard Animals to be an ostrich, eagles, and badgers. None of these show up in the book. In fact, the biggest animal there is a turtle.
  • Creepy Basement: Logan's basement is leaky and dingy, which is the perfect place to hide animals whose native habitats are underground wetlands. In fact, when his mother peeks down there and sees the beaver in the dark, she mistakes it for a giant rat, and panickingly calls an exterminator to get rid of it. This forces Logan to call the exterminator back to tell him not to come.
  • Crocodile Tears: When Mr. Nastase comes on TV interviews after his animals were stolen, he cries on the interviewers, sobbing and pretending to care about his former exhibits. This infuriates Savannah when she sees this, and she raves about it to the rest of the team.
    • Also occurs earlier with Logan on his second trip on All Aboard Animals, pretending to be sad to distract Klaus.
  • Crushing Handshake: After saving Logan and bonding with him, Klaus gives him one. Logan ignores this to keep up the act.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Klaus going into the vent opening to chase after Ben. He realizes too late that this was not a wise move, and he ends up stuck in there until after the robbery when a rescue team cuts him out of the ceiling with the jaws of life.
  • Don't Tell Mama: After the team is caught, Griffin's mother confronts her son about this. The resulting argument indicates that Both Sides Have a Point.
    Mrs. Bing: What I can't understand is why you always have to go off half-cocked on these crazy misadventures instead of coming to us! We're your parents, not your enemies! Honestly, Griffin, if you were so dead set on rescuing these animals, why didn't you just ask?
    Griffin: Think about it, Mom. Did you want me to ask you so you could help, or so you could talk me out of it?
    Mrs. Bing: (sighs) Maybe you have a point. But it's my responsibility to try to keep you from getting yourself killed, and that's what very well might have happened tonight.
  • Dramatic Drop: When Melissa turns off the lights in the Long Island Zoo, a shocked Mr. Nastase drops the baby alligator that he was holding captive in his hands onto the floor, leaving the baby alligator to target him. By the time the cops arrive, he is standing and cowering on top of a stool why the animal nips at his heels.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After everything the team and the animals went through, they manage to get luckily get off without being sent to jail, the animals went to nice homes and zoos, and Ben no longer has to go to a special needs boarding school.
  • Embarrassed by a Child: At the lake, a child points at the loon and says it's sick. Despite the fact that the team is trying not to draw attention to it.
  • Eye Awaken: The morning after Ben takes his share of the animals in for hiding, he is bitten awaken by what he initially believes is his mother. But he opens his eyes to see that it was actually the ferret, staring face-to-face with him. A startled Ben manages to choke back a scream just in time.
  • Feathered Fiend: After the team do the zoobreak and go back into their neighborhood. the owl is released into the wild, the only one that can handle it. After this, many reports of a certain flying creature attacking dogs and cats in the area draws Mr. Nastase's attention to Cedarville.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: The kids have infiltrated Mr. Nastase's zoo and freed the animals. They are secretly hiding the animals in their houses. Darren, who knows about this, has a nightmare that he's put on trial and then imprisoned. His mother, who has heard him shouting in his sleep that he's innocent, accurately guesses that it's because he feels guilty about something. Since Darren is too groggy to come up with an excuse on the spot, he just tells her what the kids have done.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: After Klaus gets stuck in the ventilation shaft, his booming voice echoes throughout the boat. The team feels guilty about this, and after the zoobreak, they notify the police anonymously through a dummy server to get Klaus out.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: This is the plan to hide the ducks and the loon. There is a duck pond near Savannah's house and she hides them there. While this works more for the ducks, the loon in particular causes too much attention, as it emits warbling noises and splashes too much.
  • Ironic Echo: When Mr. Nastase blackmails Darren into forcing him to find out where the rest of the zoobreakers are or he'll call the police, Darren yells that's not fair. And when he corners Griffin and Ben in the alligator exhibit and tells them that he'll make them get all the thunder for stealing the animals, Ben also yells that that's not fair.
  • Kill the Lights: When the rest of the team hears a gunshot over the radio, Pitch tells Melissa to kill the lights. She hesitates, but then does it, which adds further confusion in the chaos.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: When infiltrating the Long Island Zoo, the gang splits up to locate proper exhibits to place the animals in. This causes an issue when Mr. Nastase and Klaus find Griffin and Ben. Melissa has to turn the lights off, while the rest of the team go with flashlights to rescue Griffin and Ben in the dark.
  • Life Isn't Fair: When Mr. Nastase tells Darren that he'll get arrested if he doesn't turn the rest fo the zoobreak team in, Darren says that's not fair. Mr. Nastase responds with this trope, but adds that it can be be bearable if he cooperates.
  • No OSHA Compliance: All Aboard Animals, the floating zoo that Mr. Nastase runs, is full of this. As Savannah furiously points out during the tour, the cages for the animals are rarely cleaned, the lights in the place are dimly lit, they lack sufficient materials for each group of animals, and many of the animals are malnourished.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Klaus observes Mr. Nastase balk at calling the police on the school, he voices his suspicion that he really did steal the monkey. Mr. Nastase responds with "Do I look like a thief to you?" Klaus then notices the lamp on Mr. Nastase's desk that reads "Property of the Holiday Inn."
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: At school the morning after the heist, a girl named Monica enters the bathroom and tells Savannah that a a bunch of thieves broke into ''All Aboard Animals'' last night and stole all the animals. Griffin, who was eavesdropping in a stall there, nearly fell into the toilet upon hearing this.
  • Red Filter of Doom: When the team arrives at the Long Island Zoo and breaks in there, the interior rooms and corridors are lit with red lighting for the night. This is used to emphasize the tension when Mr. Nastase and Klaus break in there as well, find Griffin and Ben, and Klaus gets shot with a tranquilizer.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Darren approaches Mr. Nastase and Klaus at a restaurant offering a bargain to sell an owl, the two immediately realize that this boy was part of the juvenile team that broke into the floating zoo and took all the animals. This is half-right; Darren was originally part of the team to transport them to the zoo via his father's boat, but couldn't make it out that night. But Darren is already caught in the villain's trap, and blackmailed into giving up the rest of the team or else he'll be arrested.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: One of the animals that Ben hides is a chuckwalla, and he makes it feel at home by giving it some heat in the family sauna each day like its' natural habitat. But he later tells Griffin that this practice caused the electric bill to be over seven hundred dollars.
  • Something We Forgot: When Pitch, Savannah, and Logan come into the reptile exhibit to rescue Griffin, they're already outside the door before Griffin points out that they don't have Ben. A police car arrives to aid the team, and they rush back into the zoo to get Ben, who's fast asleep, next to an unconscious Klaus and a cowering Mr. Nastase.
  • So Much for Stealth: Ben goes through the ventilation shaft trying to get to Cleopatra. But he happens to peek into a vent that contains Klaus. He tries to back out, but hits his head and falls down the vent onto Klaus.
  • Taking the Bullet: When he corners Griffin, Mr. Nastase aims his tranquilizer gun at him to frame him for breaking into the zoo and stealing animals. But an alarmed Klaus jumps in the way to take the tranquilizer himself, leaving him out cold until the police arrive.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: While in bed after selling out the rest of his team to Mr. Nastase and Klaus, he has a nightmare that night about being sentenced for sending them on a wild goose chase. His screams and protests that he uttered in his dream didn't occur in his head, as he wakes up to his parents asking him what he was talking about.
  • Toy Disguise: As part of hiding animals in her home, Melissa has the prairie dog hide in her little brother's toy chest to pretend to be a stuffed animal. It at first seems to work, with the prairie dog staying very still. But, Melissa complains to Grifin that at one point the prairie dog blinked in front of her brother, and he's now afraid of stuffed animals. This prompts the rest of the team to voice the problems they've been facing as well.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: Mr. nastase carries one with him when he breaks into the Long Island Zoo. And he attempts to use it on Griffin, but hits Klaus instead.
  • The Trouble with Tickets: At the beginning of the book, Mr. Drysdale gets a ticket because Cleopatra was hanging off of Luthor's neck while he had his head out the window, which the cop who gave the ticket says that the monkey could have fallen off and created a traffic scuffle. But as Griffin points out in a list to defend Mr. Drysdale in trafic court, monkeys are excellent grippers.
  • We'll See About That: Mr. Nastase furiously says this phrase when he finds out that the team are sneaking "his" animals into the Long Island Zoo as their new home.
  • We Need a Distraction: Logan, when trying to distract Klaus, sees that behind the security guard is Griffin and Ben trying to test theur entry through a vent. To prevent Klaus from noticing them, Logan pretends to slip and falls in the water. He also claims to Klaus that he can't swim, forcing him to rescue the boy.
  • Wham Line: When the police arrive to rescue Ben, Mr. Nastase, and Klaus, griffin starts to suggest that they should head home now. One of the officers replies, "Don't even think about it. None of your parents are home. They're all at the police station waiting for you." These words blow like cluster bombs on the team.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The last chapter details that the Long Island Zoo ended up donating their new animals to many different zoos, with Klaus as one of their new employees. Also, Mr. Nastase was ordered to do community service and banned from ever coming near an animal.
  • With a Foot on the Bus: Ben is packing his bags ready to go to a sleep academy. But then his father comes in to tell him that Ferret Face will be staying with him at all times as a medical necessity to keep him awake, and so he doesn't have to go to the academy.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Griffin and Mr. Nastase simultaneously say this to each other when they run into each other in the Long Island Zoo.

  • Ask a Stupid Question...: After being escorted off the bus of JFK Academy, Mrs. Bing asks her son with a painfully fake smile on her face how his day was. An incredulous Griffin responds with, "You're kidding, right?"
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: When he loses his retainer, Griffin desperately wants to find it. But when it turns up, it is in a very bad place that makes Griffin look like a thief.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The deer repellant that Shank's father uses is what they do to attract the rat that was causing so much trouble in the first place.
  • Clear My Name: The main premise of the book.
  • Crushing Handshake: When Ben meets him, Shank greets him with this. Considering that Ben is tiny compared to Shank, he finds this very painful.
  • Disappointed in You: After Griffin loses his retainer, Mrs. Bing goes on and on on how disappointed she is in him, listing off on how expensive it would be to buy a replacement, how crooked his teeth will be, how untrustworthy he seems to be. Griffin finds this awful.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: When trying to convince Savannah to be on a board with a way to get Dr. Egan to change his ways via fake emails, this comes up:
    Savannah: This is a plan, isn't it?
    Griffin: Of course not. This is more like a strategy. You know, a tactic-
  • Dodgeball Is Hell: Happens at JFK. Since the students there can't be trusted with sticks or bats, dodgeball is their only alternative. Griffin is quickly made a target.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Of all the suspects drawn in a series filled with evildoers, whom would have guessed that the actual culprit of Griffin's framing is a pack rat?
  • Door Slam of Rage: When Dr. Egan marches Griffin to the secretary's office to hold him for the police to arrive, he slams the office door behind him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the turmoil that Griffin goes through, he is finally left off the hook and can go outside in piece, Sheldon gets to attend the Cedarville Middle School, and Dr. Egan eases on his strict job as principal.
  • Exact Words: When Officer Vizzini comes to the Bing home after receiving a signal that Griffin's tracking device went off, who got home safely in the nick of time, he finds him on the couch seemingly innocent. He asks his parents what happened. Mrs. Bing says that she saw that the transmit light on the hub in the basement went out, and she pressed the reset button.
It was the truth - with a few important parts left out.
  • Food Slap: When Darren sees Ben outside trying to spy on him, he takes the bottle of Gatorade he was drinking and pours it out his bedroom window, soaking Ben below.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: When Mrs. Drysdale sees her daughter in the attic surrounded with the equipment used to spy on the neighbors across the street, she angrily screams, "Savannah Marie Drysdale, you'd better have an explanation for this!"
  • Group Hug: When the team and Shank manage to capture the pack rat, get the ring back to Dr. Egan, and convince him and Celia White that they are actually good, they all have a group hug in celebration. It lasts until Griffin notices his tracking device blinking, though.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Elaine Koretsky, the judge in charge of Griffin's case. She seems to be a Reasonable Authority Figure, but she seems rather insensitive. She orders Griffin to go to JFK Academy in the meantime he's on trial, and when he protests how awful of a place it is, she seems disapproving towards him. And when she catches Griffin in a sting act, she actually puts him under house arrest.
  • I Warned You: When Officer Vizzini tells the Bing family that Griffin has to stand before a judge for a preliminary session, the Bing's are shocked. Vizzini himself doesn't appreciate their response.
    Officer Vizzini: Right from the beginning, a dozen different cops told you that one day your luck would run out. You think we were making it up? We're not that creative.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The students at JFK Academy.
  • The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: The lawyer that represents Griffin in his case is Dalton Davis of Davis, Davis, and Yamamoto.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Darren tries to get the ring after the team retrieves it, Shank fights him for it. Because he would be in high school and Darren is equally big but only in middle school age, Darren gets thrashed.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Griffin keeps trying to prove his innocence, but his ways involve illegal methods which seriously implicates suspects that he is trying to catch, and these result in him getting caught twice which lead to consequences of house arrest in the former and an ankle monitor in the latter. He almost gets caught a third time, but he very narrowly gets home just in time.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When looking for Griffin's retainer, Savannah has Luthor look for it, and they approach the school football field with Pitch joining them. But Darren is playing and puts a mouthguard on, which Luthor mistakes for the retainer and jumps onto him to get it. But to Dr. Egan, who saw the sight, it looked as if Savannah, Griffin, and Pitch intentionally set a dog to attack a player because of a grudge. This lands the two in even more trouble.
  • Red Herring: Dr. Egan, Celia White, Tony Bartholomew, Darren, and Mr. Clancy all turn out to not be behind the stolen ring at all. It was a pack rat.
  • Samus Is a Girl: At the end of the book, a football game is going on, and what appears to be Darren Vader is making a fast beeline to the touchdown area. Dr. Egan aloud is amazed that "Darren" is suddenly running so fast. "He" reaches the end of the field, and the crowd goes wild. But then the player takes off "his" helmet, revealing that it was none other than Pitch, who was denied playing football by the principal. The crowd suddenly stops applauding and is not shocked, and the principal is furious.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: When Savannah approaches Griffin and tells him about her actually correct theory that a pack rat was the one that stole the ring and placed Griffin's retainer in the case, she is absolutely sure of it, but Griffin reacts with unsurety. He reasons that if he brought this theory to the judge, he wouldn't be believed at all, as it would be like if he tried to convince them that the dog ate his homework. Before pressing on, Savannah insists that dogs don't eat homework.
  • The Stakeout: The group does this at Savannah's house with Dr. Egan's house, which is across the street from hers. Unfortunately, her mother finds it right in her attic, and they are forced to abandon the procedure.
  • Sucky School: JFK Alternative Education Center, or as Griffin and his friends like to call it, "Jail For Kids." The classes there are like nuthouses, there are no lockers so everybody has to carry their heavy supplies to each class, and the only game students are allowed to play for fitness is dodgeball.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: At the beginning of the school year, Pitch tries to join the football team. But Dr. Egan is the principal, and he is in charge of the football rules there. He doesn't even let her on the field, thinking that women could get hurt playing sports. This infuriates Pitch.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: Griffin approaches Savannah with her approval for a fake email to send disguised to Dr. Egan, one of which has a "complaint" about a sloped school lawn from "The Coalition Against Repetitive Strain Injury." This causes Savannah to say that's the stupidest thing she's ever heard in her life. When Griffin tells her there's another one about how jumping jacks destroy ant habitats, she amends her statement to say it's the second stupidest.
  • Tracking Device: When Griffin is caught away from home while under house arrest, he has a electronic bracelet on his ankle. This gives him and his father grief and his mother cry. It even points out that Mr. Bing was made to pay for it.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Mrs. Bing says this to Griffin after he was caught making a sting operation against suspects of his in the courthouse.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Dr. Egan says this when he spots Griffin as part of his team facing him in the jewelry store.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: When Griffin is tying his shoelaces at JFK Academy during lunchtime, he accidentally reveals his ankle bracelet to the cafeteria. Some passing students gave him respectful nods, accepting him as one of them. Griffin is horrified by this sight.





  • Easily Condemned: The townspeople accept the possibility of Griffin and his friends stealing the star as gospel truth, despite there being no concrete evidence that they were responsible.