Farewell, My Lunchbag (Chet Gecko Series)

Farewell, My Lunchbag (Chet Gecko Series)

4.0 5
by Bruce Hale

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Danger may be Chet Gecko's business, but dessert is his delight. . . .
Chet Gecko's hunger for mystery is matched only by his appetite for cockroach casserole, mosquito marshmallow surprise, and stinkbug pie. So when the cafeteria needs help nabbing a food thief, Chet digs into the case with a passion he usually reserves only for dessert. But this time Chet may… See more details below


Danger may be Chet Gecko's business, but dessert is his delight. . . .
Chet Gecko's hunger for mystery is matched only by his appetite for cockroach casserole, mosquito marshmallow surprise, and stinkbug pie. So when the cafeteria needs help nabbing a food thief, Chet digs into the case with a passion he usually reserves only for dessert. But this time Chet may have bitten off more than even he can chew.
Someone has framed him, and now everyone at Emerson Hicky--even his trusted partner, Natalie Attired--thinks the food thief is none other than Chet!

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
A third entry in the "Chet Gecko Mystery" series has the intrepid fourth-grade gecko helping the lunchroom cook, an iguana, looking for the food thief that strikes after school. Chet and his sidekick, a mockingbird named Natalie Attired, look for clues, and discover a long snakeskin that appears in the bushes. Readers will figure out pretty quickly who the thief is, but not before Chet has been framed, unfairly accused, and sentenced to dishwashing duty in the lunchroom. The puns, hard-boiled detective conventions turned on their ears, funny similes, and snappy parley will entertain readers. And the things they might not know¾as when Chet tells Natalie that they will "case the joint"¾are explained in context. It's all good fun, although the animal teachers act and sound like they come from a bad movie, circa 1950. But the elementary school humor, the outrageous food like green sowbug jello, and details of school familiar to children, such as pecking order by grade level and lunchroom disasters, are all just right for middle elementary readers who enjoy a good laugh and a good story. 2001, Harcourt, $14.00. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer:Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Children will likely appreciate Hale's relentless punning in this anthropomorphized detective series featuring a Raymond Chandler/Woody Allen literary blend in a fourth-grader/gecko guise. Here, it seems that someone is stealing food from the school cafeteria and Chet Gecko is hot on the trail of the thief. Mrs. Bagoong, an iguana with cheeks "soft as AstroTurf," who serves mothloaf and cockroach quiche, will be put out of business if the culprit isn't caught. Natalie Attired is Chet's mockingbird assistant, and Erik Nidd plays the role of a tough sixth-grade tarantula. Metaphors and similes work overtime in this detective/lizard world and, while geared toward an eager juvenile audience, Farewell will leave adults aching from laughter at the jokes kids will miss and from groans for the gross ones youngsters will love. This latest "Chet Gecko" tale is not only fodder for budding criminologists and stand-up comedians but may also provide inspiration for future zoologists. Hale's drawings are serviceable but they don't give much visual punch to the sassy prose.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Green-tailed gumshoe Chet Gecko's outsized appetite really gets him into hot water in his latest caper. Someone is pilfering supplies from Emerson Hickey Elementary's pantry. Chet's attempt to nab the phantom nosher backfires when he inhales a drugged pillbug muffin and wakes up amidst a plethora of evidence pointing to him as the culprit. It's a frame-up, but can he clear his name-not to mention escape a lifetime of detention-when even pun-loving avian sidekick Natalie Attired is giving him the cold shoulder? The redoubtable reptile's in a real pickle. Luckily, Hale dishes up plenty of clues, while setting the table for a wild climactic ruckus involving Chet, Natalie, custodian/mongoose Maureen DeBree, and two king cobras hiding out in the heating ducts while hatching both a clutch of eggs and a plot to take over the school. Occasional illustrations depicting a hard-boiled animal cast add atmosphere. It's literary fast food with no caloric consequences, and the incessant wordplay, plus the way everyone receives (what else?) just deserts, will give readers an appetite for more. (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Chet Gecko Series , #3
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
520L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Fright of the Iguana

Mrs. Bagoong was a hundred pounds of tough, leathery iguana. Her eyes were like chocolate drops, her cheeks soft as AstroTurf and about the same color. Her thick, powerful body was wrapped in a blue apron that said KISS THE COOK.

Yuck. Nobody in his right mind would try to smooch Mrs. Bagoong.

She ruled the lunchroom as head cafeteria lady. If you wanted extra dessert, you had to go through her.

Few tried.

But I’ve always loved a challenge.

Mrs. Bagoong was all right. For an iguana. So when I saw her frown at lunchtime that day, I was worried.

"What’s the story, brown eyes?" I said. "If your face were any longer, you’d have to rent an extra chin."

Mrs. Bagoong piled lime Jell-O onto my tray. The green gelatin was packed with juicy dung beetles. Yum. My mouth watered like an automatic sprinkler system.

The queen of the lunchroom sighed. It sounded like a small hurricane. "Chet, honey," said Mrs. Bagoong, "we’ve got problems."

My heart raced. "You’re not running out of mothloaf, are you?"

"Not yet."

I relaxed. "So it’s not serious, then."

"Serious enough!" she said. "Someone’s stealing our food. If it keeps up, it could put me out of business."

My fists clenched. Food thieves! Scum like that are lower than kidnappers, blackmailers, and people who don’t return library books. They stink like leftovers from a hyena’s lunchbox.

A plastic tray bumped mine.

"Hubba-hubba, Chet," said Tony Newt. "Sweet-talking the cafeteria ladies, eh?" He winked at me with a bulging eye, one scaly dude to another.

This wasn’t the best time for a chat, so I leaned toward Mrs. Bagoong and whispered, "Let’s talk after lunch."

"Ooh, lovers’ secrets," cooed Tony.

I turned to my classmate. "Hey, Tony, do you know the difference between you and a bug-eating moron?"

His forehead wrinkled. "No, what?"

"Beats me."

Sometimes, I just kill me.

I took my tray and found a seat. While I munched on mothloaf in gravy, I chewed over Mrs. Bagoong’s problem.

Food thieves at Emerson Hicky, eh? If they kept up their dirty work, the thieves might put the cafeteria out of commission. And that would derail my Jell-O train.

I had to help Mrs. Bagoong. A dame in distress gets me every time — even when she’s a hundred-pound iguana.

Lunch finished, I dropped my tray on the dirty stack and waited for the place to clear out. The line of kids dribbled out the doors like snot from a runny nose in flu season, and the cafeteria workers started cleaning up. (The cafeteria, I mean, not the nose.)

The queen of the lunchroom crooked one claw at me.

"Come here, Chet," said Mrs. Bagoong.

We walked behind the counter, she opened the storeroom door, and I went rubber legged in amazement. Food, food, and more food!

The huge refrigerator sang a siren song louder than a fat lady in a French opera. I plunged my head inside and almost fell down in delight. Pickled spider-eggs and pudding and rat cheese and deep-fried termites and cockroach quiche and happy-spider lasagna and candied butterflies and fire ants in red sauce and—

"Uh, Chet? Anybody home?" said Mrs. Bagoong. She rapped on the door with a thick fist.

"Oh. Sorry." I slowly pulled my head out of gecko heaven and took a deep breath.

"Let’s get down to business," I said. "You’ve got a low-down food thief, and I’m just the gecko to find out who he is."

"Or she," said Mrs. Bagoong.

"Who he or she is."

"Or it."

"Who he, she, or it is." I sighed. "Did you used to be a teacher?"

"For five years," she said, straightening her hair net. "How did you know?"

"Lucky guess. Now tell me all about the food-napping. How did it start?"

Mrs. Bagoong parked her massive bulk on a tub of lima beans. I shuddered. Even uncooked, those things are dangerous. She stroked her scaly chin.

"I first noticed it last week," she said. "I was making carpenter-ant omelettes, and we ran out of eggs."

"Maybe you forgot to buy enough."

"That’s what I thought. But then the next day, our candied butterflies disappeared. And two days after that, some bananas went missing."

I held up a hand.

"Let me get this straight," I said. "First, your eggs beat it. Then your butterflies flew. And then your bananas split?"

"You might say that," said Mrs. Bagoong, groaning.

"I just did. You’ve got problems, sister."

"You’re telling me." Her face crumpled like an empty bag of dragonfly chips. "And almost every day since, more food has disappeared. I asked my workers and the janitors to keep an eye out. Nobody has seen anything."

Mrs. Bagoong whimpered. She sunk her face in her hands — or paws, or whatever iguanas call their front feet. I forget. She looked sadder than a wilted bowl of broccoli on a muggy day.

One thick, iguanoid tear slithered down her cheek. "If I can’t stop this, I don’t know what will happen. They might even fire me."

The tear did it. I can’t stand to see a reptile cry.

"All right, enough of that," I said. I pulled my hat low over my eyes. "Chet Gecko is on the case. Food thieves, beware!"

She cracked a tiny smile and sniffled. I swaggered to the door and flung it open, then saluted her.

"See ya mañana, iguana."


I’d walked into a stack of cans.

"Uh, Chet, honey? That’s the pantry."

Another great exit, ruined.


Copyright © 2001 by Bruce Hale

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