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Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

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About The Book

In the latest novel in New York Times bestselling author Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle series, Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth to solve his most improbable mystery yet—with a victim that’s 65 million years old.

Teddy was all set for a campout at his friend Sage’s family ranch—but then Sage gets terrible news: The skull of a rare dinosaur that was being excavated on his property has mysteriously vanished overnight in the middle of a rainstorm, even though it weighed 500 pounds. Not a single footprint has been left behind. Since the dinosaur was top secret, the police don’t believe anyone outside the dig could have stolen it.

A T-rex skull can sell for millions of dollars, and everyone is a suspect—including J.J. McCracken, the owner of FunJungle.

Meanwhile, Teddy’s old foes, the Barksdale twins, have gotten into trouble with an illegally purchased anaconda, and Teddy’s girlfriend Summer wants to find out who’s behind the local trade in black market reptiles. The two cases will drag Teddy into more danger and chaos than ever before, in this mystery that’s stranger than fiction.


Chapter 1: The Smoothie of Justice

All the trouble with the tyrannosaur started the same day Xavier Gonzalez and I helped apprehend the Zebra Spanker.

Although we caught him at FunJungle Wild Animal Park in central Texas, the guy had already spanked zebras in thirteen other zoos around the country. He would slip into the exhibits while an accomplice filmed him, and then smack the poor unsuspecting zebras on their rear ends. The zebras would be understandably startled, and the Spanker would flee. The videos were then uploaded to YouTube, where they had become a sensation, each gaining more views than the last. Over thirty million people had watched the newest one.

The Zebra Spanker always wore a lucha libre–style Mexican wrestling mask, so no one knew what he looked like—or anything about him, really. It was rumored that he had done the first spanking as a lark, just to amuse his friends, but when it had gone viral, he had decided to keep it up. No one was even sure why he had chosen zebras—although I suspected it was because zebras are often among the easiest animals to get close to at zoos.

Zebras can actually be quite dangerous; a kick from their hind legs can shatter your ribs or crack your skull—and their bite can do some serious damage as well. But they are quite tolerant of humans and thus, their exhibits are usually built without the thick glass walls or wide moats that lots of other animals require. At many zoos, the zebras are only a few feet from the tourists, and so the Zebra Spanker rarely had to do more than reach over a wall or fence to strike his targets.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums wanted the Spanker caught as fast as possible—although, sadly, this was a tall order for most zoos, which had shoestring budgets and small security teams. However, FunJungle wasn’t like most zoos. It was really a hybrid of a zoo and a theme park, and had become one of the biggest tourist attractions in America since its grand opening a little over a year earlier. FunJungle had a large security force, although it wasn’t exactly a good security force; it was mostly composed of people who had failed to get jobs in any other form of law enforcement. The man in charge, Chief Hoenekker, was competent, though, and he had been posting guards full-time at the zebra exhibit, figuring that even his least capable employee could still be a deterrent.

This turned out to be wrong.

The Zebra Spanker struck shortly after FunJungle had opened one Tuesday morning in the middle of June. Normally, the park would have been packed by that time, as school was out through most of the country, but there had been a massive storm the night before, dousing some parts of the Texas Hill Country with four inches of rain, and more was predicted. Since much of FunJungle was outdoors, many tourists had opted to do something else that day.

Even so, the FunJungle guard on duty, a young man named Chet Spivey, should have been better prepared. The Zebra Spanker’s modus operandi was to strike early in the day, when crowds were small. But on that fateful morning, Chet hadn’t reported to his post on time because he was busy chatting up a cute new barista at Clara Capybara’s Coffee Café. The Zebra Spanker and his videographer arrived at the zebra exhibit to find no one else around at all; the few tourists who had braved the weather had headed for the more popular FunJungle exhibits first.

At the time, Xavier and I were on Adventure Road, the main route around the park, heading toward SafariLand with Sage Bonotto, another friend from sixth grade. Xavier and I had become friends quickly upon my arrival at Lyndon Baines Johnson Middle School, as he was a FunJungle fanatic and aspiring field biologist; he had sought me out, knowing my mother was a renowned primatologist who worked at the park. I had gotten to know Sage because he was my lab partner in science. He liked animals too, particularly the lizards and snakes that were abundant on his family’s ranch. Sage was also the class clown, the kind of kid who would rig cans of Silly String to discharge in your locker, or leave whoopee cushions on the teacher’s chair.

My friends had slept over at my place the night before. I lived in FunJungle employee housing, which was a trailer park located behind the employee parking lot. The original plan had been to camp out, as there was a nature reserve right out my back door. However, the storm had chased us inside, forcing us to sleep in my small bedroom and make microwave popcorn instead of s’mores.

I had unlimited access to FunJungle since both my parents worked there. (Dad was the staff photographer.) I had gotten Sage in through the employee entrance at the rear of the park. Everyone who worked there knew me, and they often let me bring a friend in for free.

Xavier didn’t need my help to get in; he was a junior volunteer at the panda exhibit and thus had his own employee pass.

“We should try for another campout, later this week,” Xavier said. “Since this one got rained out.”

“We could do it at my ranch!” Sage offered. “There’s this great place on the riverbank I want to show you….”

“On the riverbank?” Xavier repeated skeptically. “Won’t it be two feet underwater after last night?”

“Yes, but I bought a submarine we can all sleep in,” Sage replied sarcastically, then added, “We’re obviously not going to sleep there if it’s flooded, dingus. But if it’s dry, I promise you, it’ll be one of the most awesome nights of your lives.”

“I’ve done a lot of camping,” I reminded him. In fact, I had spent the first ten years of my life camping, living in a tent in the Congo while my mother studied gorillas. “Unless you have a herd of elephants on your ranch, I doubt this will be as awesome as what I’m used to.”

Sage gave me a smug smile. “Trust me. It’ll be better.”

“What’s better than a herd of elephants?” Xavier asked incredulously.

“You’ll see,” Sage replied.

Xavier narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You’ve been acting really weird lately. What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing’s going on,” Sage said, in a tone that indicated something was.

Xavier turned to me. “See? Weird.” Then he gasped with excitement as he noticed we were passing Savanna Sally’s Smoothie Shack. “Ooh! Who wants a smoothie?”

“And you’re calling me weird?” Sage asked. “We just ate breakfast. Teddy’s dad made us each, like, fifteen pancakes.”

“I’m still hungry,” Xavier explained. “Plus, I get twenty percent off with my employee discount!” He hurried over to the shack and announced, “One extra-large Safari Sogoodie Smoothie, please.”

As the name indicated, Savanna Sally’s was located near the fake savanna of FunJungle, which was in the enormous African Plains exhibit. Hundreds of Central African animals lived together there, including giraffes, impala, eland, cape buffalo, rhinos—and zebras.

“Extra-large?” I looked at Xavier’s ample waistline, concerned for his health. “Maybe you should go with a smaller size.”

“Smoothies are good for you,” Xavier said. “They have fruit in them.”

“And ice cream,” Sage said, pointing to Savanna Sally’s, where one employee was dropping a scoop of vanilla the size of a marmoset into the smoothie maker.

“There’s a lot more fruit than ice cream,” Xavier stated. “So that makes it healthy.”

“That’s not how nutrition works,” Sage argued.

Xavier started to argue back, but he was cut off by the whir of the smoothie blender, which was as loud as a helicopter.

In Xavier’s defense, the Safari Sogoodie was marketed as one of the healthier food options at FunJungle, but this was true only because most of the FunJungle food options weren’t healthy at all. At one shop, you could even get deep-fried fudge, which my father referred to as an “instant heart attack.” There was fruit in the Safari Sogoodie, but it was mostly high-sugar stuff like apples and grapes; and while the menu claimed it had blueberries in it, there were really only about five; purple food coloring was added to make it look like there were more.

The server handed the smoothie to Xavier and charged him $8.99. Like many of the beverages for sale in the park, it was oversize, to make people think they were getting some value for their money. Xavier needed two hands to hold it.

“Yikes,” Sage said, eyeing it warily. “Once you’re done with that, we can fill the cup with water and use it as a hot tub.”

“You’re hilarious.” Xavier took a sip of his Safari Sogoodie. The smoothies had originally been designed to be consumed with straws, but straws had been banned at FunJungle—and almost every other zoo in America—because people tended to drop them in the exhibits, and then the animals would eat them and get sick. Without the straw, Xavier’s lips were immediately dyed purple by the food coloring. Sage and I couldn’t help but laugh at him.

“What’s so funny now?” Xavier demanded.

“You look like a clown suffering from hypothermia,” I told him, which made Sage laugh even harder.

Xavier wasn’t pleased by this, but before he could say anything, we heard the braying of a startled zebra. It was a very distinctive sound, sort of a cross between a pig’s snort and a squeaky gate. I knew it well from my childhood in Africa.

“That’s a zebra,” I said. “And it sounds upset.”

“The Zebra Spanker must be here!” Xavier exclaimed.

“Oh, come on,” Sage told him. “There’s no way—”

At which point, a man in a neon orange lucha libre mask came running toward us with Chet Spivey in pursuit. “Stop that man!” Chet yelled. “He just spanked the zebra!”

It turned out that Chet had arrived just in time to spot the Zebra Spanker in the act. The Spanker had climbed over a railing at a scenic viewpoint and dangled into the African Plains to spank a large male zebra named Hochuli. (Given their stripes, all the male zebras at FunJungle were named after NFL referees.) The braying had alerted Chet to the crime, but the Spanker had already clambered out of the exhibit and was on the run. As they approached us, the Spanker had a huge lead on Chet, and it was getting bigger, as Chet, like most of FunJungle’s security, wasn’t in very good shape. He was already wheezing for breath, like he had run a marathon rather than only a hundred yards.

There weren’t any other people around to stop the Zebra Spanker except us. We were standing right in his path.

The Spanker was a big guy—much bigger than he looked in his videos. Over six feet tall and as muscular as a silverback gorilla. He didn’t appear very concerned by our presence. If anything, he seemed to think we would be excited to see him, like he was a celebrity. He actually grinned at us as he approached and exclaimed, “Hey, kids! It’s me!”

I wasn’t excited to see the Zebra Spanker at all; in fact, I loathed him. One of my biggest peeves was how many people ignored the warning signs at FunJungle—or any zoo—and bothered the animals, be it by tapping on the glass of their exhibits, yelling to get their attention, or throwing food to them. So I had no patience for anyone who climbed into exhibits and smacked animals that had been minding their own business.

But Xavier hated people who bothered the animals even more than me. If he caught people banging on the glass of the panda exhibit while he was on duty, he would point their bad behavior out to the crowd at the top of his voice to shame them, and then call FunJungle security to have them ejected from the park. (The security guards almost never showed up, but the threat of them usually sent the perpetrators scurrying off in fear.)

As the Zebra Spanker bore down on us, Xavier scowled at him with disgust and then, without even thinking about it, he threw his entire smoothie into the culprit’s face.

The thick, viscous mass of smoothie temporarily blinded the Zebra Spanker—and since it contained so much ice cream, it might have given him an external brain freeze as well. He yelped in surprise and careened toward us.

I stuck out my leg and tripped him.

The Zebra Spanker didn’t fall right away. He only stumbled and then tried to keep running, which is a very bad idea when you’re visually impaired and surrounded by open-air exhibits. The Spanker veered off Adventure Road, slammed into a low railing, and tumbled over it into the otter habitat. He landed on his rear in the fake stream and was instantly beset by hungry otters, who were lured by the smell of fruit on him.

This scared the pants off the Zebra Spanker. He still couldn’t see, and now little furry things that smelled like fish were crawling all over him and licking his face. “Help!” he wailed. “Someone get me out of here!”

Xavier, Sage, and I raced to the railing and looked down into the exhibit. Sage took his phone and started recording everything.

“Ha!” Xavier yelled at the Zebra Spanker. “Getting into the exhibits isn’t so much fun now, is it?”

“Please!” the Spanker moaned. “This isn’t funny!”

“I think all your fans might disagree.” Sage zoomed in on him and told us, “We definitely need to post this.”

Chet arrived at the railing, still gasping for breath and clutching his side in pain. He was so winded, it was difficult for him to speak into his radio. “Dispatch, this is Officer Spivey. The Zebra Spanker has been contained. Although I’m going to need some help getting him out of the otter pit.”

“The otter pit?” the dispatcher responded in disbelief.

“Yes,” Chet answered. “He fell in after being hit in the face with a…” He turned to Xavier. “What was that, anyhow?”

“A smoothie,” Xavier said proudly. “The Smoothie of Justice.”

Sage’s phone rang, interrupting his video. On the screen, I could see it was his mother calling. He stopped filming the Zebra Spanker and answered excitedly. “Hey, Mom! You’ll never guess what Teddy, Xavier, and I just did!”

I couldn’t hear his mother’s response, but it was obviously bad news. The expression on Sage’s face shifted from jubilation to shock. “What?” he asked. “How?!”

Sage listened to his mother a bit more, the frown on his face growing bigger and bigger. “Okay,” he said finally. “I’m coming home.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

Sage turned to me, his eyes red with tears, and said, “Someone stole my tyrannosaur.”

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

FunJungle: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

By Stuart Gibbs

About the Book

In the latest novel in New York Times bestselling author Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle series, Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth to solve his most improbable mystery yet—with a victim that’s 65 million years old.

Discussion Questions

The following questions may be utilized throughout the study of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks as reflective writing prompts, or, alternatively, they can be used as targeted questions for class discussion and reflection.

1. Teddy tells readers, “All the trouble with the tyrannosaurus started the same day Xavier Gonzalez and I helped apprehend the zebra spanker.” What do you think makes that statement unusual? Given what you know about Teddy’s past experiences, predict what’s in store for Teddy and his friends.

2. Consider the zebra spanker’s behavior. In your opinion, why can getting attention online and on social media cause people to behave poorly? What kind of effect can this have on their lives and those of the people around them? Explain your answers.

3. When Sage asks Teddy for help, Teddy asks if Sage’s family is getting assistance from the local authorities. Xavier tells Teddy, “‘You’re way better than the police.’” In what ways might Teddy benefit from having his friends’ support and confidence in his abilities? Can you think of ways that this can also become problematic for Teddy?

4. After seeing tourists in Snakes Alive T-shirts, Xavier tells them, “‘You shouldn’t support Snakes Alive. It’s not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoos in the AZA are required to maintain high levels of animal care.’” Why is an organization like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums important to the overall well-being of animals? In what ways can unaffiliated attractions and small zoos like Snakes Alive be detrimental? How might you go about educating the public about this distinction?

5. Were you surprised to learn that Sage was in second grade when he started driving on his family’s property? Would you like to have a similar opportunity? Why do you think there is a driving age requirement? Explain your answers.

6. Upon visiting the dig site and hearing Mrs. Bonotto’s praise for successful investigations, Summer tells everyone, “‘We know how to handle a crime scene. This isn’t our first.’” Do you think Summer is right to be so confident? Why is Teddy less assured?

7. Consider how law enforcement treats Teddy’s and Summer’s presence at the crime scene. Why might the police and other law enforcement officials be bothered by their role in the investigation?

8. Throughout Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, readers learn a great deal about dinosaurs as well as snakes, lizards, and other animals that are often part of the illegal animal trade. Which animal facts most interested or surprised you? Which animals would you like to explore further?

9. After discovering that only the dinosaur’s skull has been stolen, the sheriff is told, “‘But as far as we’re concerned, the skull pretty much was the dinosaur.’” Why is that the case? Think about what you’ve learned; what makes finding a T. rex’s skull so incredibly rare and valuable? What information can it tell you? Did you have any idea of its importance?

10. Historically, Teddy’s and Summer’s investigations have been incredibly successful; however, their parents have continued to resist allowing their children to participate in solving mysteries. Why do you think that is? Did you find their behavior to be any different in this book? Can you think of any reasons for changes in attitude?

11. When Jim Barksdale reaches out to Teddy for help, he tells Teddy, “‘Tim and I just got this new pet snake, and it sort of ate our cat.’” What does learning that Jim hopes their cat is still alive reveal?

12. Based on what you know about them, what makes learning the Barksdale twins acquired an anaconda as a pet so problematic?

13. What do you think would be the best part of getting to participate in a dig such as this one? Can you think of any drawbacks or challenges to this kind of experience?

14. Sage tells Teddy, “‘Minerva’s the only thing that can save us . . . If that skull was really worth millions, it’d be enough to save our ranch. It was like stumbling across a treasure chest.’” Do you think knowing Sage and his family are in a financial crisis affects Teddy’s willingness to help solve this mystery? What other motivations might he have? Explain your answers.

15. After getting no answers as to where the Barksdales acquired the anaconda, Summer takes matters into her own hands by being flirtatious to get more information. Did you expect her plan to be effective? Why are the Barksdales hesitant to provide information about their snake source? Explain your answers.

16. Consider Teddy’s reaction to news that Summer’s father is the number one suspect in the case of the missing dinosaur skull. How did it make you feel? How do you think Summer would feel? How might you have reacted if you were in Teddy’s shoes?

17. Tommy shares Summer’s and Teddy’s frustration toward Rick’s illegal animal trading ring. Though he also wants justice to be served, he tells them, “‘The wheels of justice don’t move that fast.’” Do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer. How does this knowledge affect Summer and Teddy? In what ways does it motivate them to accelerate the process?

18. After learning that the zebra spanker inspired copycats who also want attention, Teddy tells Summer, “‘And every time we watch the videos, we feed the beasts.’” Summer defensively counters by retorting, “‘Hey, it’s not our fault this is happening.’” Do you agree more with Teddy or Summer? Explain your position, and what you feel their role should be.

19. As Tyrannosaurus Wrecks closes, Teddy and Summer have once again solved another important mystery. Predict what new mystery will come their way in the next FunJungle installment.

Extension Activities

1. Paleontologists are at the center of this mystery surrounding a missing artifact. Readers are introduced to the work done by these specialists at universities and site locations around the world. Using library resources and the Internet, have students research to learn more about paleontology. What specialized training does one need to do this work?

Be sure to learn the following:

What kind of education is a paleontologist expected to have?

Which major universities have specialized programs?

What types of jobs do paleontologists typically hold?

What are some of the ways people interested in the science of paleontology can become involved in discovery and excavation?

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

2. Readers learn that dinosaur excavation first gained great attention around 1880. Given that historical time line, use research resources to investigate the process of dinosaur excavation to learn more about how it has changed over time. Consider choosing a dig from the early 20th century and a dig from the last twenty-five years to lead your examination of the following:

What tools are used during excavations?

Where have other dinosaur bones been located?

How is ownership assigned?

How are these excavations generally funded?

What are the benefits to an organization or institution?

After students finish their research, have them prepare presentations to share with others.

3. Readers also learn about the illegal international pet trade that involves animal trafficking. Using the World Wildlife Fund as a resource, investigate animal trafficking to learn more about the following:

What types of animals are typically trafficked?

What countries have the highest incidences of animal trafficking?

What problems does the United States face with this issue? Can you find any data?

What are the most trafficked or sought-after animals?

What can be done to reduce the number of incidences of illegal animal trafficking?

What are the general legal consequences for animal traffickers and illegal traders?

Have students take what they’ve learned and work in small groups to discuss possible solutions and ways they can actively help raise awareness for this issue.

4. The Barksdale twins’ idea to keep a pet anaconda turns out to be far more complicated than they bargained for. Using library resources, learn more about these magnificent reptiles; alternatively, students can research other common types of wild snakes, such as a Mangshan pit viper or an emerald tree boa. Be sure to focus on the following:

What are some of the reptile’s general characteristics?

Where are they typically found in the wild?

What makes them such dangerous creatures?

Why are they not ideal pets?

Are there special sanctuaries available for their protection?

Are there any national or global conservation efforts to protect them?

What other snakes are often sold illegally as pets?

After students collate information, have them create posters to share what they’ve learned with their classmates.

5. As Dash and his friends camp out around the dig site, they hear a distant sound that Ethan suspects could be a chupacabra. Research to find out more about this mythical creature, being sure to focus on the following:

What is a chupacabra believed to be?

How is it described?

Are there specific geographic areas that have reported sightings?

What are other examples of cryptids around the world?

Have students write short essays sharing why they think these sightings and stories remain popular.

6. Readers learn that the illegal pet trade has destroyed ecosystems all over the planet. Have students discover more about how the illegal pet trade has had such a negative impact. Begin by reading this article from Time Magazine at Working in small groups, ask students to discuss this topic using other research resources to inform and support their thoughts on the impact. Have them think about the following:

What are some additional examples of ecosystem destruction?

Are there any plans in place to combat this?

Who leads or funds these endeavors?

Using their new knowledge, ask students to create a visual that can be showcased and shared with others to spread awareness.

Lexile ® 830L

The Lexile reading level has been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics.

Guide written by Dr. Rose Brock, an assistant 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 or

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

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (March 24, 2020)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534443754
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
  • Great Texas Mosquito List

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