New shirts available!

Hey folks –

A lot of you may have noticed that there haven’t been any new t-shirts available on this site for, oh… five years or so.  That’s because I never had the time to design any more.

(I suppose it’s possible that you never realized that there were t-shirts available on this site at all.  Well, now you know.  Just go to the ‘Get Stuff!’ page on this site and you’ll see.)

Anyhow, since I didn’t have the time to design t-shirts, I finally just coerced someone else into doing it.  Now, there’s some really cool new ones on the site, featuring all sorts of cover art by the immensely-talented Lucy Cummins.

So, if you’ve ever looked at one of my books and thought, “Man, that cover would look amazing on a t-shirt,” click here to check the new stuff out.  (Or you can go to that ‘Get Stuff!’ page whenever you want.)

Just so you know, I don’t make any money from this.  These shirts are all available at cost.

Hope you like them!

Get a free book from Barnes & Noble this summer — and vote for me!

Every summer, Barnes & Noble has a great reading program for kids — and this year’s was just announced.  In honor of the 2016 Olympics (I think), this summer’s event will be a reading triathlon.

Only, while a real triathlon involves swimming, cycling and running, this triathlon basically just involves reading books.  And then taking two minutes to fill out a form.  Everyone who participates can get a free book from B&N!

You can click here for details, but here’s the gist:

All you really have to do is print this form, fill it out and bring it to a B&N near you.

That’s it!

But, while you’re at it, B&N is also having two additional events.  They’re allowing you, the readers, to vote on your favorite hero and place from several different books.

And it just so happens that Teddy Fitzroy, the central character of my FunJungle series, is nominated for Best Hero!

The competition is very stiff, though.  Teddy is up against some formidable competition.  Like Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web, Despereaux from The Tale of Despereaux, Augie Pullman from Wonder, and two guys you might have heard of named Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

I am very very flattered to be included with all these excellent writers (and there’s a couple others in there with me) — but I would also very much like to beat them.

So, while you’re downloading forms, please please please print this one too then fill it out and bring it to your local Barnes & Noble along with your reading log.

Also, note that you can vote more than once!  So why not vote for me multiple times?  You know I’d do it for you.

Happy reading!

My visit with the WWF wildlife crimes division (and some new info about FunJungle 4)

HEADS UP: There is some cool new info about FunJungle 4 — including the name of the book — in the blog post below.

A few weeks ago, I got to meet some of the great unsung heroes on earth: the people who deal with wildlife crimes for the World Wildlife Fund.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking: “Hold on.  The World Wildlife Fund has an animal crimes division?”

And to be honest, I don’t blame you.  I have donated plenty to the WWF over the years and paid a lot of attention to the work they do and yet, I was never aware they had a wildlife crimes division myself until an amazing woman named Giavanna Grein who works there reached out to me.  Giavanna had read Big Game and liked how I dealt with the issue of poaching.  Once I found out what she did, I immediately asked if I could talk to her.  It turned out I was going to be in Washington DC where the WWF was headquartered, so she invited me to drop by and meet some of the team.

Giavanna specializes in fighting animal trafficking, which is the illegal movement of live animals (which are usually being smuggled into the country to be sold as pets) or animals parts (like elephant tusks or rhino horns).  I would have been happy to simply meet with her, but to my surprise, she lined up an all-star crew of people for me to meet.

People like Nilanga Jayasinghe, who oversees all animal protection projects in Asia; Bas Huijbrets, who oversees animal protection projects in Africa — and Ben Freitas, who oversees all marine animal protection projects.  Rachel Kramer and Robin Sawyer also worked to fight trafficking, while also specializing in wlidlife tech (Rachel) and reptiles (Robin).  John Probert was working on wildlife protection technology while also specializing in giraffe protection.  Karen Baragona is a panda protection specialist who also works to reduce demand for animal parts.  And Crawford Allan has been fighting for animal protection for 25 years.

It was very exciting for me to meet all these incredibly impressive people.  As those of you who read my blog know, the next book in the FunJungle series concerns giant pandas.  But here are some things I haven’t revealed before:  First of all, the book is going to be called Panda-Monium.  Second, the crime at the center of the story is that a giant panda disappears en route from the San Diego Zoo to FunJungle.  As I was playing around with this idea, it occurred to me that some potential culprits might be animal traffickers — and now, I have been able to meet with some of the biggest experts on animal trafficking on earth.

Also, I got to meet Karen, the panda protection specialist.  Which was very exciting for both of us.  She has a ten-year-old who likes my books.  And I had been following the WWF’s work on panda conservation.  In fact, I had already quoted a lot of facts from the WWF before I even knew I was going to meet Karen.  So here we are, being all excited to meet each other:

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So… what did I learn?  Well, I learned some disturbing things about the state of animal conservation — and some good things too.

Here’s something disturbing: The USA might be the biggest culprit in animal trafficking in the world.  I know a lot of time we like to point the finger at China, but our country might be just as bad when it comes to importing live animals and animal parts as China is.  (Turns out, it is very hard to track this.)  I even got to see some of the horrible things made from endangered animals that people have tried to smuggle into this country.  Here some are:

First of all, here I am holding the skin of an entire tiger that was being smuggled into the country:

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This is an ice bucket made of the foot of an elephant.  Because, obviously, nothing is as cool as getting ice from the foot of a dead animal.  (That’s sarcasm.)

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Here’s a briefcase made of rhino skin:

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Here are cowboy boots made from Pangolin scales.  Pangolins, which are scaly anteaters from southeastern Asia, may be the most-trafficked animals on the planet:

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And here is a belt made by Versace.  Yes, Versace, the big, fancy French designer, is making belts with illegal animal parts.

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Why anyone would want any of these items in their home (or on their bodies) is beyond me.  And yet, there are people out there who don’t merely want to pay money for these things: They want them so badly, they are willing to break the law to get them.

 

Another disturbing thing: Giraffe poaching has gone up far more than I realized.  I was well-aware that elephant and rhino poaching was on the rise, but I had never heard of anyone poaching a giraffe.  Apparently, it’s happening, though.

But, there is good news too.  The fine folks at the WWF are making progress in the fight to protect wildlife.  Nilanga informed me that Nepal has now gone four years without a single rhino poaching incident.  Four years!  The things that have worked there — like making communities more invested in the fate of the animals — are now being tested in other countries as well.  And John talked about how new technology, like drones, may make it easier for us to track wildlife — and find poachers.

Meanwhile, on the panda front, thanks in part to the work of people like Karen, the Chinese panda population is climbing — and several new panda reserves have been established, which don’t only protect pandas, but also other wildlife such as takins and snub-nosed monkeys.

If you want to help the WWF in their fight against animal crimes, there are things you can do.

First of all, don’t buy any illegal animal products — and help spread the word.

Second, be very careful about buying an exotic pet.

It turns out, a great number of the live animals being trafficked illegally aren’t big things like pandas, but smaller animals like reptiles, birds and fish, which are usually sold to everyday families as pets.  If you are looking to buy an animal like this, ask the dealer lots of questions about where the animal came from.  See if they can provide documentation that proves the animal was bred in captivity (which is legal) and not taken from the wild (which is probably illegal).  Ask if they have a sustainability plan.  And double-check their answers on Google.  (For example, if they claim their rhino viper is from Asia, they’re lying.  And also, don’t buy a rhino viper.  It will kill you.)

If a dealer can’t answer your questions truthfully or provide the documentation you want, then maybe you shouldn’t be buying from them.

Finally, support the World Wildlife Fund.  Every little bit helps.  Click here to visit their website.

Thanks to Giavanna and everyone at the WWF for taking the time to meet with me — and for doing such important work around the world every day.  We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude!

 

Exclusive Collector’s Edition of Spaced Out available at Barnes & Noble

Remember how, last year, Barnes & Noble printed exclusive editions of Evil Spy School and Big Game, with lots of great extra bonus material, and they were really awesome?

Well, there’s now an equally-awesome exclusive edition of Spaced Out!

First of all, check out the special cover.  Oooh!  Shiny!

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Even better, if you take the cover off, there’s a bonus promotional poster for Moon Base Alpha inside.

And there’s other great bonus material too, like more promotional materials from Moon Base Alpha, and an interview with Garrett Reisman, former astronaut and current director of crew operations at SpaceX.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow.  That special edition probably costs a million dollars.”

Well, you’re wrong.  In fact, right now, if you pre-order a copy, it’s only $9.65.  Don’t believe me?  Click here for proof.

Supplies are limited.  And this deal won’t last forever.

Also, even though the book isn’t officially out until April 5, I have received reports from avid readers claiming that they have already received their copies.  So maybe you’ll get your copy early too.

 

Big news about Spy School #4 — and the spy school series overall

Here’s that big update on Spy School #4 I’ve been promising for a while.

To start with, here’s the cover (once again, done by the immensely talented Lucy Cummins):

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As you have probably deduced, this one involves a mission at a ski resort.  Why a ski resort?  because when I was growing up, it seemed that every James Bond movie had a really amazing ski sequence.  They haven’t done them quite as much with the Daniel Craig Bonds (though there was a scene on a ski mountain in Spectre) but it always seemed that the glamor and action of skiing was a big part of the spy world to me.  So I decided to let Ben and Erica go to the mountains.

Here’s what I can reveal of the plot: Since Ben has proven himself on previous battles against SPYDER, he has now been approved for his first official mission, Operation Snow Bunny.  His assignment: Become friends with Jessica Shang, the daughter of a suspected Chinese crime boss, and find out all of her father’s secrets. Jessica wants to go to ski school in the Rocky Mountains, so Ben is sent to join her — along with Erica, Zoe, Jawa, Warren and Chip.  Yes, all Ben’s pals get to join him on this one, too.  (Cyrus and Alexander hale will be along to run the show.)

Only, things don’t go nearly as well as planned.  There’s plenty of complications, rivalries, plot twists and near-death experiences.  I don’t want to reveal much more, because I don’t want to ruin the story for you, so if you write posts or emails begging for more details, I’ll probably tell you all that is classified.  But I can assure you this book will have all the action, humor and continued character development you’ve been asking me for.

The book hits stores on October 11.  Though if you’re desperate to pre-order it, you can do that by clicking here.

More news: For those of you who are upset you’ll have to wait 18 months in between spy school books, you won’t have to wait as long for the next one.  Spy School #5 will be out in fall of 2017.

And while I’m at it, here’s one last piece of big spy school news: This fall, a boxed set of the first three Spy School books will be released.  If you haven’t checked out the series yet, this would be a great way to start.  And if you already have the books, well… this would make a great present for someone who hasn’t.

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The boxed set wil be in stores on October 4th.  But you can pre-order it by clicking here.

An answer to your burning question: Where do I get my ideas?

I get this question more than any other (except ‘When is your next Spy School/FunJungle/Moon Base Alpha novel coming out?’) and it’s one of the most complicated questions to answer.  So I’m going to do my best to answer it right now.

Sort of.  It’s very hard to say where ideas come from.  They just kind of happen.  I didn’t really think, “Where would be an interesting place to set a mystery?” and eventually realize, “Aha!  A zoo!”  Instead, one day, a long time ago, the idea of doing a mystery in a zoo just popped into my head and I realized it was a good one.

So maybe the better question to answer is: What do I do to inspire myself to come up with ideas?

There are two parts to that answer.  1) I tend to write about things that interest me.  Note that this is different than saying “Write what you know.”  A lot of people tell me they’ve been told to write what they know, but if everyone did that, we’d end up with a million books about middle school, high school and college.  There are lots of things that fascinate me: animals, zoos, spies, space travel…

2) I research those things.  This is the fun part, because research isn’t necessarily just reading about something (although that certainly counts).  It’s also trying to experience those things, which I find can generate more ideas than simply hanging around, thinking about something.  For example, walking around a zoo inspires more ideas than merely thinking about a zoo.

It’s pretty amazing how effective immersing yourself in an experience can be to generate ideas.  For example, there’s this volcanic crater in Hawaii — Kilauea Iki — that my son and I love to hike in:

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Notice that this crater (which only formed in 1959, by the way) looks pretty alien.  In fact, it’s about as close as you can come to hiking on the lunar surface as possible on earth.  Every time I’m in that crater, I kind of feel like I’m on the moon — and I suddenly find myself besieged with ideas for the Moon Base Alpha series.  Ideas that I might not have come up with otherwise.

It just so happens, there’s a pretty awesome lava tube right near Kilauea Iki.  Fun fact: There are also lava tubes on the moon!  A while back, I sought out the help of some scientists who specialize in potential lunar construction, and they’d told me that if we were to build anything on the moon, we’d probably have to set up our first camps in lava tubes to protect ourselves from meteorite strikes.  (Research!)  Now, while looking at a picture of a lava tube is interesting, actually walking through one is considerably more inspiring:

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Research like this and inspiration go pretty much hand-in-hand.  If you’re learning about something, inspiration strikes all the time — often for something you weren’t even trying to learn about. For example, I was researching rhinos down at the San Diego Zoo when we dropped by the panda habitat and suddenly, it became evident that FunJungle four ought to be about — you guessed it — pandas.

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Meanwhile, somewhere else along the line, I’d had the idea that it would also be interesting to have a story involving dolphins.  So I took it upon myself to do a little research on dolphins as well.  Luckily, a place called Dolphin Quest was happy to do this for me:

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Extremely educational — and very inspirational!  (Not to mention awfully fun.  I told you research was the fun part.)  When FunJungle #4 comes out in spring 2017, expect there to be a bit of a dolphin mystery in there, along with the panda mystery.

So if you’re looking for inspiration, I highly recommend trying to experience as much as possible (as long as your parents say its ok.)  Go to zoos and museums and national parks.  Take lessons in things that interest you.  Explore the world!  And read a lot.

(And for those of you still wanting details on Spy School #4 — and what inspired that — I promise you, details will be coming in February some time.)

Boxed sets of my books are now in stores!

Troubled by which one of my book series to start first?  Well, now you don’t have to worry any more — because you can get the first edition of all three series at once!  That’s right, Belly Up, Spy School and Space Case are now all available in one handy set: Astronauts, Spies and Hippopotami, the Stuart Gibbs Starter Collection.  Plus, they come in a beautiful, hand-crafted carrying case!  (Otherwise known as a box.)  Check out how beautiful it is!  (And click here to order one.  Or two.  Or twelve.)

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Or, are you dealing with a different conundrum: You want to buy all the books in the FunJungle series, but you wish there was a beautiful, hand-crafted carrying case for them as well. (Or, at least, a box.)  Well, your problem is solved, because there is now a FunJungle Collection as well.  Click here to order yours today!

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Both sets are perfect for holiday gifts, or for simply putting on your fireplace mantle and inducing gasps of awe and jealousy from your houseguests.

For those of you who are Spy School fans, there are no boxed sets for that series at the moment.  But there might be soon.  Stay tuned…

This is Nola. She’s a northern white rhino. And her species is about to go extinct.

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EXCEPTIONALLY SAD UPDATE TO THIS POST:

Shortly after I wrote this, Nola passed away.  So now,  instead of four Northern White Rhinos left on earth… there are three.

Here’s the rest of the original post, though:

Nola lives at the San Diego Safari Park.  By all accounts, she as as sweet and good-natured as any animal can be; she’s like a two ton labrador retriever.  And she is one of only four northern white rhinos left on earth.  That’s right: THERE ARE ONLY FOUR OF THESE RHINOS LEFT ON THE ENTIRE PLANET.

There are none left in the wild.  The other three are in a zoo in Europe.  And they’re all too old to breed, which means there is really nothing we can do to save them.  This beautiful creature is going to die out in your lifetime.

If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’ll know this isn’t the first time I’ve called attention to this.  However, it seems worth bringing up again.  I’ve been traveling around the USA over the past few weeks, talking about the serious problem of rhino poaching (as it’s at the heart of my newest book, Big Game).  And the school kids I’ve talked to are very, very upset to learn about Nola and the rest of her species.

They’re also very upset to learn about the fact that other rhino species are being killed off at an unsustainable rate, meaning they might go extinct in our lifetimes as well.

They’re upset to learn that on average, THREE RHINOS ARE KILLED ILLEGALLY EVERY DAY.

And they’re also upset to hear that elephants are in serious trouble as well.  Right now, on average, ONE OF THESE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES IS BEING KILLED ILLEGALLY EVERY 14 MINUTES.  THAT’S 96 ELEPHANTS A DAY.

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Tanzania estimates it has lost 60% of its elephant population over the last five years.

If you want to get involved, there are many great organizations working to help stop the slaughter.  Please check out at least one of these to find out what you (and your family, and your friends, and your school) can do:

www.rhinos.org

www.96elephants.org

www.savetherhino.org

And check out the Save The World tab at the top of this page to learn about other organizations protecting wildlife and their habitats around the world.

Let’s try to make sure that other species don’t suffer the same fate that Nola will.

Thanks,

Stuart

Barnes & Noble is printing an exclusive edition of Big Game!

Did you enjoy the B&N exclusive edition of Evil Spy School, with its 32 pages of hilarious bonus material, secret map on the inside of the book jacket, and super-shiny cover?  Well, here’s some very exciting news:  B&N is going to have an even-more-awesome exclusive edition of Big Game!

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(For those of you who missed out on the special edition of ESS, I tried to tell you about it.  Honest.  I had a post on this very blog.  Plus links!  And I tweeted and used all sorts of other social media.  I even came to your house to talk to you personally, but you weren’t home.  You can still get it, though.  Just click here.)

The exclusive edition of Big Game also has 32 bonus pages of hilarious additional material, and a secret surprise on the inside of the book jacket, and a super shiny cover.  (See it above?  Ooooooh.  Shiny!)  I worked really hard on it, and so did Lucy (my amazing cover designer) who put together some great extra artwork.

Now, I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Hmmm.  32 extra pages of bonus material, a surprise inside the book jacket and a shiny cover?  Boy, I’ll bet that’s gonna run me an extra $300.”

Well, you’d be wrong!  The exclusive edition will run you and extra… 24 cents.

That’s right, for less than the cost of… um… honestly, I don’t even know if anything costs a quarter any more… but anyhow, for less than a quarter, you get all that great stuff!  And you get the rest of the book, too!

Just run down to your local Barnes & Noble store on October 13.  Or click here to preorder it!

This seems like a pretty good time to reveal the animal in FunJungle #4…

I know, I know.  FunJungle #3 (Big Game) isn’t even out yet (though it will be soon… October 13th!) and I’m already talking about FunJungle #4 (pub date: sometime in spring 2017).  But there’s been some exciting news this week that’s relevant to the story.

This weekend, at the National Zoo in Washington DC, not one… but two giant panda cubs were born.  Now, the birth of any giant panda is cause for celebration, seeing as there are less that 2,500 giant pandas remaining in the world today.  (About 1,800-1,900 in the wild and 300 or so in zoos.)  So twins is doubly exciting — although they can present problems for Mom.

Which leads me to the amazing reveal that… The animal at the center of the mystery in FunJungle #4 will be…

A duck.

OK, it’s a giant panda.

Why a giant panda?  Because everyone loves giant pandas.  Even more than people love koalas.  A while back, when I was doing research for Big Game at the San Diego Zoo, I happened to mention to some of the staff that a koala was at the center of poached because I was trying to choose an animal that people adored and they all looked at me like I was an idiot and asked, “Then why didn’t you choose a panda?”

I mean, look at them.  They’re adorable, all right.

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(Now, if you’re read Poached, you know that a panda couldn’t have been swiped the same way that a koala could have, so the mystery wouldn’t have worked out the same way.  But still, they had a good point.)

I was already well down the road to writing Big Game, so I had to shelve the panda idea until book four.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking: You have more questions about book #4.  What happens to the panda?  Which characters are returning?  What’s going on with Teddy and Summer?

Well, I’m not going to answer any of those questions right now.  In fact, I’m not answering any questions about FJ4 for a long time.  (Why?  OK, I’ll answer that question… kind of.  Just find my recent post about why I’m not answering any questions about Spy School 4.)

But in the meantime, to assuage your annoyance at me for dropping the panda bomb and then moving on, here’s another bit of bear news from the week: Folks in Alaska spotted a grizzly rolling down a hill, apparently just for fun.  Click here to see it.  It’s ridiculously cute.