The Mystery of the Mixed-Up Zoo

The Mystery of the Mixed-Up Zoo

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by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Charles Tang

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The Alden children explore a series of mix-ups at the zoo in order to save it from pranksters and the town council.

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The Alden children explore a series of mix-ups at the zoo in order to save it from pranksters and the town council.

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Boxcar Children Series , #26
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
7 - 12 Years

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The Mystery of the Mixed-Up Zoo



Copyright © 1992 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-1250-9


Edward Marlow

Driving down the highway, James Alden pointed out the sign announcing the city of Rosedale to his four grandchildren, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.

"There's where my old friend, Edward Marlow, lives."

Benny, the youngest, craned his neck. "I see it!" he said in an excited voice.

"I can't wait to meet Mr. Marlow," Jessie said. "Did you go to school with him?"

Grandfather chuckled. "He was my college roommate. Edward dreamed up all kinds of excitement. He had a lot of pep in those days." He paused. "I'm eager to see him. I haven't seen him for years. He's owned this small zoo for a long time, and I want to see how he's getting along."

"Is he as handsome as you, Grandfather?" Violet asked with a smile.

Grandfather laughed. "Edward was a good-looking boy with a mischievous streak."

"Edward sounds like fun!" Benny said. "And his zoo even more fun!"

"Yes, he does," Henry agreed. "How far does he live from the zoo, Grandfather?"

"He lives just one block away, just a short walk," Grandfather said.

Smiling, Violet leaned back in the seat. She brushed back her hair so she'd look her best for Grandfather's friend.

Jessie smiled at her sister. Her thick hair was tangled from the wind, but she smoothed it down and tied it back with a ribbon.

"I wish we could have brought Watch," Benny said.

"Watch will be fine," Henry said. "You know how Mrs. McGregor spoils our dog."

Benny nodded, satisfied.

More and more highway signs appeared. They knew they were in the city limits when they passed a sign that said:


A motel flashed by, then a few stores, a park, a public swimming pool, and a movie theater. On this hot August day, hundreds of kids were swimming.

Grandfather swung off Highway Six onto Main Street, then drove straight for several blocks. "Watch for Hamilton Street," he said, pushing his sunglasses up on his nose.

"There it is!" Jessie exclaimed. "Hamilton Street."

"Now," Grandfather said, "look for 501 Hamilton."

"Five-oh-one!" yelled Benny a moment later, delighted that he'd been the first to spot Edward's house.

The narrow two-story house was wooden and quite plain. Not a flower, not a bush grew near it.

Grandfather stopped the station wagon and the children scrambled out.

Grandfather, straight and tall, headed up the walk, and knocked on the door.

The door opened wide and there stood Edward Marlow. He was a gray-haired man with a pink round face. His blue eyes twinkled, and a grin spread across his face. "Come in, come in," he called. "Welcome!"

Grandfather grabbed Edward and the two men hugged one another. "Edward, it's great to see you!" Grandfather said.

"And you, too, you old fox!" Edward said.

Grandfather stepped aside. "Meet my four grandchildren," he said proudly. He pointed to the tallest. "This is Henry, who's the oldest, he's fourteen; Jessie is twelve; Violet is ten; and here's six-year-old Benny."

"How do you do, sir," Benny said, stepping up and shaking Edward's hand.

"You're all to call me Edward," Edward ordered in a teasing tone. "Come into the kitchen for a surprise."

Going through the living room, Jessie noticed piles of newspapers and yellow magazines stacked in the corner. Upon a closer look, she saw that the yellow magazines were all National Geographics. Next to a worn leather chair was a world globe. Edward must like geography, she thought. Tables and lamps were dusty, and a cobweb drifted down from the ceiling.

The dining room appeared to be seldom used. In the center was a heavy round table with six chairs. On one wall was a china cupboard with glass doors so grimy you could hardly see the dishes inside. On the opposite wall was a small table with a telephone and a bench beside it.

Edward led them into the kitchen. "Sit down, sit down," he said heartily. He set a quart of ice cream in the center of the kitchen table. Six bowls, spoons, and napkins completed the table setting.

As Edward dished up the ice cream, Violet glanced around. The sink, filled with dirty dishes, was next to the stove. That, too, needed a good cleaning. When Edward opened the freezer, frozen food was stacked to the top.

"This tastes good," Benny said. "Except for stopping for lunch, we were on the road all day."

"My, my," Edward said sympathetically. "I'll bet you're tired."

"Where do we sleep?" Benny asked.

Grandfather shook his head. "Benny, be patient. Eat your ice cream."

Benny tipped his bowl. "It's empty," he said. "I've finished."

"How about another scoop?" Edward said, leaning toward Benny.

"Thank you, but I'd better not," Benny said.

"That's right," Violet said, "we don't want to spoil our appetites for supper." She wondered, though, if they would eat here. There was not a sign of a prepared dinner, nothing on the bare countertop nor a pot on the stove.

Suddenly a distant roar interrupted them.

"What was that?" Benny asked, his big brown eyes questioning Edward.

"That's the lions at my zoo," Edward explained. "They are fed at five, but around four they start crying for their dinner."

"Just like someone else I know," Jessie teased, smiling at Benny.

"Grandfather says the zoo is close by," Henry said.

"It is!" Edward said. "It's only a block from here, and when the wind is just right, you can hear birds twittering and elephants trumpeting." He laughed. "I love it!"

"Gee!" Benny exclaimed. "That's exciting. I can't wait to see the animals."

"Tomorrow, bright and early, we'll pay the zoo a visit," Edward promised.

"Oh, good!" Benny said. "I like to watch the monkeys."

"And now," Edward said, scraping back his chair, "let me show you your rooms."

The children followed him upstairs. He led them to two small bedrooms. "This," Edward said, indicating a small room with bunk beds, "is the boys room."

He crossed the hall. "And this is for you," he said to Violet and Jessie, showing them to a bigger room with a large bed.

"Make yourselves at home," Edward said. "We'll go out to a restaurant about six o'clock." He left, going downstairs.

Jessie, unpacking her suitcase, said, "Violet, I don't think Edward has many home-cooked meals."

"I'm sure of it," Violet said. "We'll have to cook dinner for him."

"That will be fun," Jessie said. "We can do a lot to make this place cozy."

Grandfather would be sleeping on a roll-away bed in Edward's large bedroom off the living room. Once everyone had unpacked and washed, they met by the front door.

"I want to take you out to one of my favorite places," Edward said.

They drove to Rita's Restaurant. As soon as they walked in, the woman at the cash register called, "Edward! How are you? Do you want your usual table?"

"Not tonight, Rita. I need a table for six," he replied.

"Can do," she said, smiling. "Follow me."

And she seated them at a round table in the back. Edward greeted several customers. When the waitress took their order, she kidded with Edward. Edward knows everyone in here, Violet thought.

The children and Grandfather were given special treatment by Rita and the waitress. After eating spaghetti and meatballs with heaps of homemade bread, they finished with coconut cream pie.

"In the morning," Edward promised, "you'll see my zoo. I know you'll like it."

"I know we will," Jessie said. "Is every animal your friend?"

"Every single one!" Edward said. "The town likes the animals, too. It's their taxes that helps me add new animals and build comfortable homes for them."

"I can see you're happy in your work," Grandfather said.

Edward nodded. "My zoo keeps me young, James."

Going to the zoo tomorrow would be exciting, Violet thought. She just hoped it was better kept than Edward's house!


The Mix-Up

Benny, awakening before anyone else, climbed down the bunk's ladder and tiptoed to the closet. He pulled on pants and a shirt. Then he sat by the window to wait until Henry woke up.

After a few minutes, unable to wait any longer, he went over to Henry and whispered, "Henry, Henry, are you awake?"

Groaning softly, Henry rolled over and opened his eyes. "I am now," he said.

"Get ready. We're going to the zoo," Benny urged. Sitting up, Henry said. "Look at you, Benny. You're dressed and ready to go."

Benny nodded.

"Okay," Henry said, swinging his legs over and rubbing his eyes. "I'll bet we're the first ones at the breakfast table."

But he was wrong. Coming into the kitchen, he was surprised to see Violet setting the table and Jessie mixing pancakes. Henry pitched in and broiled bacon while Benny poured orange juice.

Edward and Grandfather soon joined them. Edward's bushy eyebrows shot up. "Well, well, what have we here?" he said. "What a treat." He chuckled. "I only keep a few groceries on hand, but I see you've found a use for them."

"Edward," Jessie began as she set a stack of pancakes on the table, "I wonder if ..."

"Yes?" he looked at her expectantly, pulling a chair to the table and sitting down.

"All of us like to cook and clean and garden." Jessie paused, passing the syrup. "And, well, we'd like to do a few things for you."

Edward chewed his bacon. "That would be wonderful. An old bachelor like me doesn't pay much attention to the house. Or have many home-cooked meals."

"Could we stack up your newspapers and magazines?" Violet asked.

"Of course." Edward thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "You know, there's an old cabinet in the basement. Maybe you could bring it up and hide them in there. Anything else you find down there that might be useful," he added, "haul it up."

"Thanks," Henry said. "If you like, we could plant a few shrubs and flowers, too."

"I'd like to have a hand in that, too," Grandfather said.

"Great!" Edward said, smiling. "I've got plenty of cash in that cookie jar." He pointed to an orange glass pumpkin with a green stem for the lid. "Help yourselves to whatever you need to buy."

"Thank you!" Benny said eagerly. "We won't waste it. I'll help weed and plant flowers."

Edward threw back his head and laughed.

"I can see your visit is going to be the best thing that's happened around here for a long time." Then he patted his stomach. "That was delicious. Usually I eat a bowl of dry cereal." He rose. "And now, are you ready for your tour of the zoo?"

"I'm ready!" Benny said promptly, jumping up from the table.

"I think we all are," Grandfather Alden said. "Lead the way, Edward."

And so on a beautiful morning with the sun streaming through the leaves, they walked to Marlow's Zoo.

Going through the iron-grilled gates, they walked down a tree-lined path. Birds sang and tigers rumbled.

A young woman carrying a bucket walked toward them. She wore khaki knee-length shorts and a matching shirt.

Edward waved. "Pat!" he shouted. "Come meet my friends."

She hurried over. "Hi," she said. "This must be the Alden family." A smile lit her tanned face. "Edward's been talking about your visit for weeks."

"This is Pat Kramer" Edward said, introducing each of the Aldens. "Pat's the best animal keeper this side of the St. Louis Zoo. I don't know what I'd do without her."

Pat shook James Alden's hand and then each of the children's. "If I can explain anything about the animals, let me know," she offered pleasantly.

"Thanks," Benny said.

"And that goes for all of us," Henry added.

Pat smiled. "I have to get back to Leona."

"Leona?" Violet questioned.

"Leona, the lion," Pat said. "She hasn't been herself lately, so I'm giving her a special diet."

"Let me know how she reacts," Edward said.

"I will," she promised and went on her way.

Looking over the zoo, the Aldens could see that many animals were not in cages.

"I think it's wonderful that many of the animals aren't behind bars," Jessie said.

Edward, strolling along, said, "Each animal has an area that is as close to its home in the wild as we can make it." He stopped before three giraffes. "In some cases a moat separates visitors from the animals," Edward explained, pointing to a deep ditch between them and the long-necked giraffes, who munched contentedly on tree leaves. Once they stopped to stare at their visitors, their soft eyes with long lashes blinking at the Aldens.

"Wow! Look how tall they are," Benny said, leaning back and looking down. "They have a longer neck than Miss Harrington, my first-grade teacher."

Violet read the sign. "'Grizzly Bear.'" Puzzled, she glanced at Edward. "Grizzly bear?" she repeated.

Edward bent over to read the sign for himself. "Grizzly Bear!" He shook his head. "Well, now, we can see that's not right."

"Let's see what it says by the elephants," Benny shouted, running ahead.

He read the square card in front of the four adult elephants and one baby. "This sign says 'Monkeys'!" Placing his hands on his hips, he said, "Did I read it wrong?"

"No," Violet said. "You're right, the card is wrong."

"Well, I'll be," Edward said, catching up. Bewildered, he hurried to the Bird House. "Look at this," he said to the others who followed.

Jessie peered at the sign. "Why, the birds are all labeled 'Panthers,' 'Lions,' and 'Tigers.'" As if in protest, the birds shrilled and screeched.

Outside the Bird House, Benny passed a desertlike area on which a black snake slithered over the sand. "This card says 'Fox,'" Benny said.

Jessie, Violet, and Henry laughed. "Someone is playing a funny prank on Edward."

But Edward didn't laugh. "What's going on?" he asked. "This is an awful mix-up!"

Grandfather stepped forward, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. "It's a joke, Edward. Don't worry."

"Well," Edward growled. "I don't find it very funny."

"We'll put the signs in their right places," Violet said, snatching up the FOX sign. Soon all of them had been returned.

"Good, good," Edward murmured. "I hope there are no more pranks!"

On the way home, Jessie glanced at Edward and could see he was still upset. "How about a nice dinner at home?" she asked. "We'll cook your favorite."

Edward's smile wiped away his gloom. "I like a good steak, baked potatoes, and tossed salad."

"That's easy," Henry said.

When they arrived at the house, Edward said, "But you'll need to go to the store. Mike's Grocery is only two blocks that way." Pointing in the opposite direction from the zoo, he dug in his pocket and pulled out some money, giving it to Jessie. "Now you can buy whatever you need."

Violet and Jessie, not wasting any time, hurried down the road.

Before long they were back and went directly to the kitchen.

Jessie stopped, her mouth dropping open. "Henry! Benny! You've cleaned the whole kitchen!"

Violet smiled. "Even the floor has been mopped."

"We wanted to surprise you," Benny said.

"You certainly did," Jessie said.

Henry unloaded the groceries while Violet made a salad and Jessie scrubbed six big potatoes and wrapped them in foil.

That evening everyone was seated at the dining room table. When the thick seared steaks and steaming potatoes were served, Edward's eyes lit up.

Cutting into his steak, Edward beamed. The children could see he felt a lot better than when he saw the mixed-up signs. They were glad they could cheer him up.


The Snapshot

The next day the four Aldens walked to the store and bought lots of groceries to stock Edward's cupboards. They carried sack loads of apples, milk, bread, eggs, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, oranges, grapes, peas, green beans, orange juice, cereal, muffins, and hamburger meat.

When they arrived home, they carefully put the food away. Afterward they dusted every piece of furniture.

"You know Edward told us to bring up the cabinet from the basement," Violet said.

"Oh," Benny cried, clapping his hands. "Could we explore the basement?"

Henry chuckled. "I'm ready. Are you, Jessie?"

"I sure am," she said, heading toward the stairs.

First Henry went downstairs, followed by Jessie, then Violet, and finally Benny.

Boxes were stacked in corners, and a lamp as tall as Henry was in the center. Benny's eyes were wide as he peered at the many things strewn about. "Where should we start?" he asked.

Stepping over an old heater, Henry tipped over an empty box. "Anywhere you want to, Benny. Edward said we could bring upstairs anything we could use."

"Oh, boy," Benny said, going to a dark corner and kneeling down to open an old tin box. He picked up something small. "How pretty," he said, holding up an orange and black trinket.

"Look," Henry said, pointing to a wooden cabinet. "This must be what Edward mentioned." Opening the two doors, he peeked inside. "This will be just fine to store his magazines and newspapers."

Violet ran her hand over the dark wood. "I'll bet this is a hundred years old."

"Maybe it was his mother's sewing cabinet," Jessie said. "Edward told us he grew up in this house, so I know many of these things belonged to his parents."

"Let's carry this upstairs," Henry said. He lifted one end, and Violet and Jessie the other. They started up the steps.

They set the cabinet near Edward's chair in the living room.

"Did you notice that bookcase by the furnace?" Jessie asked.

"Perfect!" Violet exclaimed. "We could put some of Edward's books in there."

So they carried it upstairs. "What's this?" Jessie asked, picking up an album that was on the lower shelf.

Sitting down, Violet turned the pages of an old photo album. She peered closely at an old snapshot. "Look! This is Edward!"

Henry, looking over her shoulder, exclaimed, "Edward was a pilot in World War Two. He was either in Japan or Germany. Those were the two main areas of fighting during the war."


Excerpted from The Mystery of the Mixed-Up Zoo by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1992 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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