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Whale Done

Part of FunJungle
LIST PRICE $8.99

About The Book

In the eighth novel in New York Times bestselling Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle series, Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth to find the culprits behind a blown-up whale and a string of beach sand thefts.

After an escaped kangaroo starts a fire that burns down his house, Teddy Fitzroy accepts an invitation to go to Malibu with his girlfriend, Summer, and her mother, Kandace. He’s hoping to spend some time relaxing on the beach, but wherever Teddy goes, trouble isn’t far behind.

First, a massive dead whale has washed up on the beach—and before anyone can determine what killed it, it explodes. Doc, the head vet from FunJungle, suspects something fishy is going on and ropes Teddy and Summer into helping him investigate.

Then, Teddy stumbles upon yet another mystery involving tons of stolen sand. And the paparazzi start spreading rumors about Summer dating a celebrity, leading Teddy to question their relationship.

Without Summer as his trusted partner, can Teddy navigate the rough waters of this glitzy world and uncover what’s going on?

Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Escape 1 THE ESCAPE
I would never have seen the whale explode if a kangaroo hadn’t burned down my house.

The kangaroo was a four-year-old male named Hopalong Cassidy, and the fire wasn’t entirely his fault. It’s not like kangaroos go around plotting arson. All that Hopalong was truly guilty of was trying to escape.

I know this because I witnessed the entire event.

My name is Teddy Fitzroy. I’m fourteen years old, and I live at FunJungle Wild Animal Park.

FunJungle is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Texas, an enormous theme park and zoo featuring many of the finest animal exhibits ever built. Both my parents work there—my mother is the head primatologist, while my father is the official photographer—and because their jobs require them to be at FunJungle at all hours, we have employee housing.

But while FunJungle had spared no expense to create incredible habitats for the animals, with state-of-the-art facilities and innovative designs, the park had really skimped when it came to providing lodging for humans. The public relations department had named the staff housing area Lakeside Estates, but it was merely a group of mobile homes haphazardly arranged in the woods behind the employee parking lot. They were supposed to be deluxe models, but my father suspected they were actually defective merchandise that the dealer hadn’t been able to sell. (J.J. McCracken, the billionaire owner of FunJungle, also owned the mobile home company.) Our home was slightly lopsided, with bargain-basement appliances and walls so thin you could hear what neighbors were watching on television. Even worse, the utilities were barely functional. The septic system often smelled worse than the elephant house, and the electricity conked out on a regular basis.

Which was why I wasn’t home during the fire. The mobile home park had suffered a power failure—on the hottest day of the year, no less.

Central Texas is known for being hot and humid, but that mid-August day was brutal. The state was suffering through its worst heat wave in a decade, and that afternoon it had been 116 degrees in the shade. Even animals that lived in deserts, like the camels and fennec foxes, seemed to think this was too much and refused to go outside. Despite this, the park was still busy; it was the height of tourist season, and parents who had built up the trip for weeks didn’t have the heart to tell their children they weren’t going. (In addition, many guests had prepaid for nonrefundable park admission packages.) But everyone who had dared to venture outdoors looked miserable. They slouched about in the heat, gulping down overpriced sodas to stay hydrated and griping that none of the animals were doing anything but napping. The Polar Pavilion, which was refrigerated to arctic temperatures for the polar bears and penguins, had a two-hour line to get inside.

I had spent most of the day with my best friend, Xavier, and my girlfriend, Summer, trying to find ways to stay cool. Xavier was a junior volunteer at FunJungle, and though his shift at the giraffe feeding station had been canceled due to the heat, he still came to work because he was a wannabe field biologist, and FunJungle was his favorite place on earth. Meanwhile, Summer was the daughter of J.J. McCracken. All three of us had befriended many FunJungle employees over the past year, so we were able to finagle our way into the VIP lane for the Raging Rapids ride, which we went on so many times in a row that I lost count.

After repeated drenching, our clothes were so waterlogged, we thought we might be able to stay cool enough to ride out the rest of the afternoon in my trailer, even with its anemic air-conditioning. Lakeside Estates was located only a short walk from the theme park rides at FunJungle. But as we approached my house, the power blew.

We could tell by the sound. Everyone who was home had their air conditioners going full blast. One second, the machines were all humming so loud, it sounded like we were inside an enormous wasps’ nest—and then, suddenly, everything went silent. Two seconds after that, the profanity began. We could hear everyone through their paper-thin walls as they cursed the lousy power system, the cheap air conditioners, and Summer’s father, who had skimped on building the place.

We happened to be directly outside the trailer of Drew Filus, the chief ornithologist, when he unleashed an extremely long stream of insults about J.J. McCracken, and then made a few shocking suggestions about what J.J. could do with the crummy air conditioners he had bought. It went on for a good three minutes.

“Sorry you had to hear that,” I said to Summer, once it had finally ended.

She shrugged, unconcerned. “I’ve heard far worse than that about Dad.”

Even though it was getting late in the afternoon, it was still miserably hot. My clothes had already dried out, save for my soggy shoes and damp underwear. Evidence of the drought was all around us: the ground was parched, the grass was brown and brittle, and the tiny pond that FunJungle public relations amusingly referred to as a lake had completely evaporated, leaving only a stretch of dried-out mud.

“Guess the trailer is out of commission,” Xavier observed morosely. “Where to now?”

“Maybe my dad’s office?” Summer suggested. “I’m sure the administration building still has air-conditioning. The whole park has backup generators.”

“Except employee housing,” I groused. The administration building was all the way on the other side of FunJungle, a twenty-minute walk through the heat. Standing around and griping wasn’t going to make things any better, though, so we started back through the desiccated woods toward FunJungle’s rear employee entrance.

Our route took us through the staff parking lot, a wide stretch of simmering asphalt that felt like the Sahara as we crossed it. Numerous employees were headed home for the day, but their cars were so hot after baking in the sun for hours that no one could get right in and drive away. Instead, most had started their vehicles and were letting them run with the windows open and the air-conditioning cranked, waiting for them to cool down.

Kevin Wilkes was standing in the shade of his rusted pickup truck, killing time by setting off leftover fireworks from the Fourth of July.

Kevin was one of the dimmer FunJungle employees. He had originally been hired as a security guard but had lost that job after I discovered he’d been unwittingly feeding the giraffes local plants that were making them sick. Now Kevin had been demoted to janitorial work in the FunJungle Emporium, as it was about as far away from the animals as you could get.

In the month before Independence Day, fireworks stands sprouted like weeds along highways all through Texas. Kevin had blown an entire week’s pay on several crates, planning to put on an epic fireworks display to impress a woman he liked at his apartment complex, but the complex had banned him from doing it, rightfully fearing disaster. They also refused to let him store the fireworks in his apartment, as it was a violation of three dozen safety codes. So Kevin had been stuck with several thousand low-quality fireworks, which he kept in the bed of his pickup.

When we came across him, he had just lit a few spinners, which were whirling and sparking on the asphalt. “Hey!” he called out to us. “Want to set off some fireworks?”

“You shouldn’t be doing that,” Summer told him. “The woods around here could catch fire in an instant.”

Kevin frowned, although he appeared more upset that we had rejected his offer than he did about being dressed down by a fifteen-year-old girl. “That’s why I’m only setting off spinners, rather than bottle rockets or fountains. I’m not an idiot, you know.”

Summer and Xavier both looked at me in a way that said they didn’t agree with that statement.

“Even the spinners could start a fire,” I warned Kevin.

“How?” he challenged. “The woods are all the way over there. And I’m being super careful. See?” He lit a string of poppers and made a show of being vigilant in case of trouble.

The poppers were extremely cheap fireworks that were basically just tiny packets of gunpowder. All they did was make a series of loud bangs.

I had to admit the blasts were relatively small and contained and probably not capable of reaching the woods in the distance. However, the sudden noise created its own problems.

Several keepers who were waiting for their cars to cool down mistook the sound for gunfire. They screamed and dropped to the ground.

Hopalong Cassidy was startled by the noise as well.

My friends and I had been too distracted by the heat and Kevin’s fireworks to notice that a kangaroo was being delivered to the park.

Normally, zoos try to time the delivery of animals after official hours, so there aren’t tourists around, but FunJungle stayed open much later than normal zoos, and, while the truck that was delivering Hopalong was air-conditioned, the veterinary staff still didn’t want to keep an animal locked inside a vehicle on a hot day any longer than they had to.

In recent years, zoos across the United States had recognized that kangaroos—and their close relatives, wallabies—were so docile that they could be displayed in a way that most other animals could not: in large enclosures that visitors could actually walk through. FunJungle had quickly jumped on the bandwagon and was modifying its Australian area to feature an exhibit like this. The Land Down Under would allow guests to wander a path right through the marsupial habitat. It was scheduled to open in the fall, and in the meantime, FunJungle was trying to acquire every kangaroo and wallaby it could.

Hopalong was a western gray kangaroo who had been born at the Milwaukee Zoo. At four years old, he was already mature, six and a half feet tall and 120 pounds. He had a reputation for being good-tempered and comfortable around humans, although the FunJungle staff was still taking every precaution to ensure that nothing went wrong. Hopalong had been delivered in a specially designed trailer with plenty of room for him to move about during his long drive from Milwaukee, but the truck was too big to drive through the park to the Land Down Under. So Hopalong was being transferred into a crate on a smaller truck in the employee parking lot, which would then take him through the behind-the-scenes area to his new home. Luring Hopalong from his comfortable, air-conditioned trailer into the crate out in the heat was a delicate process. In their natural habitat in Australia, wild kangaroos could occasionally face temperatures as hot as it was that day, but Hopalong was used to the milder weather of Wisconsin. The keepers were trying to coax him with biscuits that had been developed in the FunJungle kitchens to appeal to kangaroos.

Hopalong had just been edging from the trailer into the crate when the poppers went off.

Not only was the kangaroo startled, but his handlers were too. They quickly took cover, leaving the crate unsecured in the back of the truck. It shifted slightly, so that it was no longer flush with the trailer. Instead, there was a gap of a few inches.

Hopalong immediately took advantage of this.

A kangaroo’s huge hind legs are incredibly strong. The animals can cover twenty-five feet in a single leap, jump six feet vertically, or travel at thirty-five miles per hour for short bursts. Hopalong wedged one of his enormous feet into the gap and, with a quick flex of his leg muscles, sent the crate skidding back into the truck.

Then he dropped to the ground and bounded across the parking lot, fleeing for the woods.

His route took him directly toward me and my friends.

Summer, Xavier, and I scrambled out of his way. You never want to stand in the path of a big animal. An herbivore can really hurt you if it runs into you at full speed.

Kevin, on the other hand, didn’t even see Hopalong coming.

He was busily lighting some sparklers and backed directly into Hopalong’s way. The kangaroo pivoted to avoid a head-on collision, but his powerful tail thwacked Kevin in the chest.

A kangaroo’s tail is almost as powerful as its legs. Hopalong’s was a thick club of taut muscle, and it sent Kevin reeling backward. The sparklers flew from Kevin’s hand and landed in the bed of his truck.…

Right in a crate of unused fireworks.

“Uh-oh,” Kevin said.

“Get away!” I yelled, then grabbed Summer’s hand and raced across the parking lot.

Xavier and Kevin were right on our heels.

Behind us, the crate of fireworks erupted. Hundreds of roman candles, fountains, and aerial repeaters went off at once. Spinners crackled and poppers burst while rockets and colored balls of light blasted into the sky. So many fireworks were detonating that the truck trembled as though it were at ground zero in an earthquake.

All the noise spooked Hopalong even more. The kangaroo bolted out of the parking lot and down the road that led to the park exit.

Kevin had sprung for a few expensive fireworks—the type that professionals would use in their shows—and those now exploded in the air high above, creating floral blooms and starbursts. The sizzling embers rained down around us. A few landed in the drought-parched woods that surrounded employee housing.

Which was how the forest fire began.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Whale Done

A FunJungle Novel

By Stuart Gibbs

About the Book

After an escaped kangaroo starts a fire at his house, Teddy Fitzroy accepts an invitation to go to Malibu with his girlfriend, Summer, and her mother, Kandace. He’s hoping to spend some time relaxing on the beach, but wherever Teddy goes, trouble isn’t far behind. First, a massive dead whale has washed up on the beach—and before anyone can determine what killed it, it explodes. Doc, the head vet from FunJungle, suspects something fishy is going on and ropes Teddy and Summer into helping him investigate.

Then Teddy stumbles upon yet another mystery involving tons of stolen sand. And the paparazzi start spreading rumors about Summer dating a celebrity, leading Teddy to question their relationship. Without Summer as his trusted partner, can Teddy navigate the rough waters of this glitzy world and uncover what’s going on?

Discussion Questions

1. At the opening of Whale Done, when Summer tells the fire chief that FunJungle employees still in their onsite trailer homes are in danger, he tells her, “‘We’ll get them out. . . . Now leave this to us!’” (Chapter two) Why do Teddy and Summer have faith in the FunJungle fire department? What are some of the specific things that the firefighters have done to ensure safety of the park and the surrounding areas?

2. After hoping that Teddy was nowhere near the fire, his mother is not surprised to learn that he was very close by and tells him, “‘Of course you were. Any time there’s trouble, you’re right in the middle of it.’” (Chapter two) Do you find her response to be fair? Why or why not?

3. Teddy goes on to tell readers, “Ever since we had moved to FunJungle, I had attracted trouble like a magnet.” (Chapter two) Based on what you know about Teddy, why do you believe trouble keeps finding him?

4. Much like the coordinated efforts of the firefighters battling the blaze at the park, solving the mysteries of FunJungle has required Teddy to rely on the assistance of his friends. In what ways has Teddy benefited from the work of others?

5. Though his family didn’t own many possessions (largely due to living in a tent camp in the Congo for a decade while his mother worked there), Teddy shares his sadness as he states, “I had never been a big fan of the trailer, but still, it was home. And now it was gone.” (Chapter two) Based on Teddy’s distress, why is having a home so essential (regardless of its condition)? What are your favorite things about the place you call home?

6. Early in the novel, readers learn that Teddy’s home has been destroyed and that he has a kangaroo to blame for it. Given what you know about Teddy’s life and past experiences, does this surprise you? In what ways might a trip to Malibu with Summer and her mom be a welcome adventure? What challenges would you expect a mystery in this new location present?

7. When Binka, Summer’s mother’s friend and their host in Malibu, tells Summer, “‘with looks like this, you don’t need school,’” Summer retorts, “‘I like school.’” (Chapter three) Why does Binka work so hard to convince Summer and her mother that Summer should take up modeling? What does Summer’s reaction to this idea indicate about Summer’s priorities?

8. For Teddy and Summer, the trip to Malibu is an opportunity to have adventures together as a couple. Offer some predictions of things that might go wrong during this California adventure for the pair.

9. Though the homeowners around the site of the beached whale want the body removed immediately, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, plans to do an autopsy first. Why do you believe this organization feels it’s critical to further examine the cause of death for the whale?

10. After sharing that both he and Summer want to see the whale carcass, Teddy states, “The whale had become something of a tourist attraction. People had come from as far away as New Mexico to see it.” (Chapter four) How does learning that the whale’s corpse has become a spectator’s destination make you feel? Why do the authorities try to keep others at a distance?

11. How does learning about the sand theft from surfer Dave and others factor into solving this mystery? Why are Dave’s warnings and testimony not taken seriously at first? Why is sand erosion happening along the beachfront homes and in other places problematic?

12. After Doc gains Dr. Carson's permission to observe the whale’s autopsy, Summer asks if she and Teddy can accompany him. She declares, “‘We’ll behave ourselves . . . I promise.’” (Chapter four) Are there any reasons you can think of that might make Doc hesitant to allow them to do so? What are some of the benefits to having the pair along?

13. Doc tells the kids that the whale’s death isn’t considered a crime “‘but there may have been environmental factors that led to the whale’s death. If we can determine what those are, then maybe we can prevent more cetaceans from dying.’” (Chapter four) Summer believes that even if the whale’s death was caused by something in its environment, it still should be considered a crime. Do you agree? Explain your rationale. Who do you think would or should be responsible?

14. While out on the ocean trying to collect water samples to determine if the whale died from oil leaking from offshore rigs, Cass tells Teddy, “‘Sand is way more important than people realize. . . . In fact, these days it’s probably the most important building block of our civilization.’” (Chapter twelve) What are some of the ways coarse sand is used? Based on what you learned while reading Whale Done, why is sand essential to our lives?

15. What do you believe would be the best part of participating in an investigation such as the one presented in Whale Done? What would be some drawbacks to this kind of experience?

16. What makes blue whales special and worth protecting? Why is it important that we do more to protect them, as well as other sea life, from dangers created by humans?

17. Consider Cass’s reaction to the threatening men ordering them to turn over the collected water samples. Why is it so critical to Cass that she keep the water samples from them? What does she hope to prove, and what do you think of her choice?

18. Binka tells Summer’s mom, “‘That boy is a bad influence on your daughter. Maybe, back in Texas, it’s fine and dandy to let children investigate crimes, but here, we let the police do it. Teddy needs to back off and mind his own business.’” (Chapter seventeen) Why does Binka react so strongly to Teddy’s investigation? In what ways is Summer’s mother, Kandace, influenced by Binka’s opinion?

19. When the paparazzi report that Summer is in a relationship with Wynn, a beloved pop star, Teddy isn’t pleased. Consider Summer’s reaction to Teddy’s jealousy and explain if you think she was right or wrong.

20. Even though Trish is able to accomplish her job by generating social media attention and buzz for Summer, she does so by spreading a false rumor that Summer is dating Wynn, which could be called unethical. Do you approve or disapprove of this approach to gaining more followers? Why?

21. Throughout Whale Done, readers learn a great deal about blue whales, as well as other important sea life. What were some animal facts that excited or surprised you?

22. Consider all the characters who have a part in the ultimate destruction and death of the blue whale that is found on the beach at the beginning of the novel. What role does each of these characters play in this act? Do you believe one party is more guilty than any of the others? Make a case for who you believe to be most responsible.

23. As the novel closes, Teddy and Summer have solved another important case. Predict what new mystery will come their way in the next installment of the FunJungle books.

Extension Activities

1. In Whale Done, readers begin to learn about the impact plastic has on Earth’s oceans and other waters. Begin by having students read the following National Geographic piece:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/global-treaty-to-regulate-plastic-pollution-gains-momentum

Working with a small group, begin to research more on this topic, also focusing on the following:

o Why is plastic so problematic?

o In what ways can it be dangerous for ocean life?

o What efforts are being made to combat this problem?

o How can individuals make a difference?

o Are there any campaigns near you that deal with plastic (even in landlocked areas)?

o What are some promising alternatives to plastic production and consumption?

Continuing your work as a team, draft a plan for a plastic campaign to help educate people in your school or community about how a reduction in plastic use can make a profound difference to the environment.

2. In Whale Done, readers learn that overfishing can have detrimental effects, and poorly managed fish farms can also pollute local waters. Using library resources, learn more about overfishing, being sure to research the following:

o What does overfishing mean?

o What are some areas where this problem has been identified?

o What is the typical outcome of overfished areas?

o How do local, state, or US government agencies regulate this issue?

As a culminating activity, engage in a discussion regarding what was learned and provide options for extending this learning.

3. At the opening of Whale Done, it takes an extraordinary team of local fire stations, a squad of smoke jumpers, and forest fire helicopters assisting the FunJungle fire department to fully douse the blaze of the blaze that rages at the park and in the forest nearby. Investigate to learn more about how large-scale fires are fought, being sure to learn specifically about the work of smoke jumpers. Have learners begin by watching this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sovMpY2QH-I

Then use the following website to learn more:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/fire/people/smokejumpers

After students have completed their investigations, allow for a collective conversation about what students learned and found most interesting.

4. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs are two US government agencies that focus on conservation and preservation work, like that highlighted in Whale Done. Using library resources and the internet, have students research these organizations to learn more about their essential work and the outcomes of these endeavors.

Be sure to learn the following:

· What are the programs these organizations oversee?

· Do they have unique focuses (what makes each of these agencies different from the other)? In what ways does their work overlap?

· Who are the other collaborators of these programs?

· What are some of the biggest challenges faced?

After gathering this information, have students create a visual presentation that illustrates their findings.

5. Throughout the course of Whale Done, readers learn the world’s oceans are in danger from a variety of human-led activities. Working together, examine Smithsonian’s Ocean website resources here: https://ocean.si.edu/conservation.

While reading and examining their resources, have students journal or create a “What I’ve Learned” notes page, detailing what information is new to them, and why they believe it to be significant. After finishing, be sure to have students share their findings with the class.

6. In Whale Done, readers learn that the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth, but despite its size, it is often at risk of harm from a variety of sources. Learn more about the blue whale here: https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/animals/sea-life/10-blue-whale-facts/.

After these readings, research to learn more about modern conservation efforts for the blue whale. Have students take their newly gathered knowledge and, utilizing a digital or artistic platform of choice, create a visual that can be showcased and shared with others.

This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock, an associate professor at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Brock holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or thebookpantry.net.

About The Author

Photograph by Dashiell Gibbs

Stuart Gibbs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Thorne series, FunJungle series, Moon Base Alpha series, Once Upon a Tim series, and Spy School series. He has written screenplays, worked on a whole bunch of animated films, developed TV shows, been a newspaper columnist, and researched capybaras (the world’s largest rodents). Stuart lives with his family in Los Angeles. You can learn more about what he’s up to at StuartGibbs.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (January 30, 2024)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534499324
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 840L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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