Carl Hiaasen (Juvenile Fiction)
It’s tough always being “the new kid”. It’s even tougher when there is a bully involved, but the day that Dana Matherson mashed Roy Eberhardt’s face against the school bus window was perhaps the greatest stroke of luck since Alexander Graham Bell spilled acid on his leg. For it was at that exact moment that Roy saw the mysterious running boy bolting past the bus. He was wearing no shoes and carrying no backpack or books. What was he running from? Where was he going? And why wasn’t he wearing any shoes? Turns out, that wasn’t the only mystery in the sleepy little town of Coconut Cove, Florida. Someone is trying to prevent the newest Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House from being built. Between burrowing owls, alligators, sparkly-tailed snakes, fake farts, and nightly pranks, perhaps Coconut Cove isn’t so sleepy after all.
Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2003. He gives us two mysteries in one: a strange running boy and a vandal thwarting the efforts of a big-time corporation. The story is witty, fast-paced, and full of heart. Our hero, Roy, is likeable and full of moxie. For a kid who just wants to get through the school day unnoticed, he makes it a point to stand out from the crowd. From taking on the school bully to striking up an unusual friendship with Beatrice Leep, an elite soccer star, Roy quickly makes a name for himself and becomes the unlikeliest of heroes.
Hoot is more than just a story about friendship and courage. It is a David-versus-Goliath story as environmentalism goes head-to-head with capitalism. It’s burrowing owls against big bucks and a group of average kids willing to go to great lengths in order to protect something far more valuable than a building or a brand. In addition, we are introduced to a rather unseemly group of adults: an opportunistic officer, a nasty vice-principal, crooked politicians, a vile stepmother, greedy corporate heads, and so on. Luckily, there are a few adults in the book who haven’t sold their soul to the devil, but the spotlight is really on Roy, Beatrice, and our mysterious running boy, which proves that good things do come in small packages.
American writer and poet Suzy Kassem wrote, “Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.” Carl Hiaasen gives readers a story about defending the weakest among us—the helpless and vulnerable who either lack the voice to speak up or the courage to stand up. He provides instances showing people doing good in order to curry favor or to get ahead, but it’s the instances where good is done simply because it is the right thing to do that proves to be the truest measure of a person. Hiaasen illustrates this through a new kid, a mysterious running boy, and a soccer star—three unlikely friends who wouldn’t give up despite the odds and showed that every life is precious and worth preserving. That, dear friends, is something we should all give a hoot about.
*Book cover image attributed to www.target.com
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