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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: Hoot

Author: Carl Hiaasen

Release date: 2nd January 2004
Genre: Realism / Comedy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Hoot is a funny preteen story set in a town in Florida. At its heart is a message about standing up for what you believe in.

Roy Eberhardt has moved from state to state so many times that he doesn’t feel he has any roots. The place closest to being anything like home is Montana with is wondrous mountains. But at the beginning of the story Roy is the new kid at a school in the very flat state of Florida. He really doesn’t get what’s so great about Florida but he doesn’t complain. He knows his parents have it tough too. Roy is wholly and completely a good egg. I liked Roy. He was spontaneous and yet very good at reasoning things through.

Things get interesting for Roy when he spies a boy running barefoot away from the school bus and into the trees. Roy happens to be looking that way because his face is up against the bus window courtesy of the brutish Dana Matheson. The running boy has an impact on Roy because he does it with such complete involvement. Roy is determined to find out who this boy is and why he isn’t at school.

The plot is part mystery – Roy is looking for clues about the identity of the running boy. Part comedy – running boy is pulling pranks on the local cops. Part eco-warrior tale – there is a really important message about protecting wild habitats here but it never feels like a preachy narrative.

I really liked Hiassen’s dialogue. It was so funny. The adults (excluding Roy’s parents) are complete nincompoops. So the book had a slightly subversive feel about it that kids will love. Every character had a different sound and was in their own way peculiar – so they were at once daft and yet convincing.

The perfect word to describe Hoot is amusing. It wasn’t your laugh out loud book, the comedy was more subtle than that and yet it was entirely satisfying. Especially the ending.

Recommended for fans of:
  • Holes by Louis Sachar

Source: Bought at the school library’s second hand book sale.


Penny Dolan said...

Becky, I really do agree with you that there's more to Hiassen's writing than the style suggests.

I recently read his "Chomp" and reviewed it over on Awfully Big Reviews.

While the blurb made me think the books aren't naturally what I'd go for, I actually loved them and feel sure that for some readers - maybe especially boys? - he offers exactly the right mix of romp and emotion and information.

He somehow writes looking outwards, not inwards, encouraging his readers to do the same, and suggesting the world's a complicated and interesting place that needs people watching out for it, even if just within their patch. Great characters too, even the occasionally overblown scenes.

Love his grown-up books too.

Emily said...

When I student taught a few years ago, one of my placements was in a third grade class, and every day after lunch we did a quick 10-15 minutes of read aloud to get everybody back in school mode after the cafeteria. We read this book together during that time and the kids LOVED it. I think the combination of verbal humor, slapstick, and the environmental message made the book really accessible to them.