Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. ISBN: 0375829164
Two story lines run simultaneously in Hoot until they come together in the end. New kid, Roy M. is trying to fit in at Trace Middle School (Coconut Grove, FL) and has encounters with a bully. He works tirelessly to solve the mystery of the straw-blond strange looking boy he sees running by the school bus and then he joins in the cause to save the burrowing owl’s habitat that is slated for construction of a new pancake house. In the meantime, Officer Delinko is trying to solve a case of vandalism at a construction site. Many off-beat funny mishaps occur also including his police car being painted while he is asleep inside. Everyone comes together in the end for a demonstration of environmental activism.
I laughed out loud while reading this book and as I blogged earlier, it kept my attention when I needed a diversion.
One professional review of the book said there were “several unlikely scenes,” but I think to a middle-school reader, all the scenes were very believable. Hiaasen did an excellent job at pacing the book without revealing too much information. This always left new information to discover even down to end with the true name of “Mullet Fingers”.
I thought this was an excellent activism novel on a level that middle-schoolers could relate to and comprehend. It was peppered with the way one feels when he moves and family issues. Although Roy discovers something wonderful about his Dad, not all of the characters have positive outcomes in their family situations. This kept it very real for all readers.
I haven’t read Hiaasen’s adult fiction, but I understand from reviews that Hoot follows his style. As someone who has been writing about Florida since he was six years old and is currently writing a column for the Miami Herald, I believe he is accurate at capturing the correct culture, plot and setting for this book.
Hoot is definitely a hoot!
BOOKLIST: “In this thoroughly engaging tale of how middle-schooler Roy Eberhardt, new kid in Coconut Cove, learns to love South Florida, Hiaasen lets his inner kid run rampant, both the subversive side that loves to see grown-ups make fools of themselves and the righteously indignant side, appalled at the mess being made of our planet.”
HORN BOOK: “Hoot is quintessential Hiassen – a mystery/adventure set in South Florida, peopled with original and wacky characters.”
*Topics for discussion include: activism, bullies, burrowing owls, endangered species, environmental issues, family relationships, and vandalism.
*This would be an excellent book for the class to take the lead on what topic is most important to them and what kind of response activities would be best. Possibilities include: writing a letter to the editor, research, activist responses, take on counselor’s role for a character of the book or poetry.
*For chapter quizzes both printable and online, http://www.mce.k12tn.net/reading58/hoot.htm
*Author’s website, http://www.carlhiaasen.com/