Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reading what the students read: Hoot

It's been a while since I did a "Reading what the students read" column.  There have just been too many eye-catching new books available!  But here is my review of Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.
Checkouts: 11 between two copies
Checkouts for Hoot/Flush/Scat: 42*
Typical reader: Upper elementary, both genders

Synopsis: Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House is coming to Coconut Cove, Florida.  But someone has been pulling up the stakes, putting alligators in the portable toilets, and committing other acts of vandalism.  Meanwhile, newcomer Roy Eberhardt, a middle school student, notices a barefoot boy running through town and takes interest.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

I'll be honest.  Carl Hiaasen is known for being a very funny mystery writer, and his children's books are supposed to be just as humorous.  This book just didn't hit my funny bone, though.  The kids love these books however, so it's probably just my sense of humor that didn't connect.

That said, this is a very engaging read.  It reminded me of my all-time favorite book from my childhood, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, in both the adventures the characters have and in the social commentary.  There are two excellent reasons to read this book: the outstanding characters and the plot.

Roy is one of the best characters I've read this summer.  He's got a lot of spunk, and stands up for himself and his beliefs.  He takes on a bully, stands up to an intimidating soccer star and then befriends her, and questions the legality of a corporation's actions.  Supporting characters such as Officer David Delinko, Beatrice Leep, and Beatrice's stepbrother "Mullet Fingers" (so nicknamed for his fishing abilities) are sympathetic and well-written.  "Mullet Fingers" contributes to the Maniac Magee air, running everywhere and living as a vagabond, doing what he feels is right.

What he feels is right is protecting the burrowing owls that live in the lot where the pancake house is scheduled to be built.  He is willing to do that through any means necessary.  Can he and the others somehow save the owls' habitat?  Or will the cute little birds be buried by the bulldozers?  These are awesome plot hooks for budding environmentalists and animal-lovers, as well as readers who like kids that take initiative to change their world.

*: The author's book Scat has the most checkouts of the three books, but I'd picked up this one since I thought the books were part of a series.  They are not.  You can read any of them without any knowledge of the others.  Whoops.

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