48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen is known for his love of his home state of Florida, and his relentless championing of environmental issues for the benefit of the wildlife and natural habitats of the state. Many of his novels for adults have plots revolving around environmental concerns, and the storylines of his juvenile novels, of which "Chomp" is the fourth, are all centered on issues relating to man's interaction with the environment.
In the tradition of his adult novels, "Chomp", like Hiaasen's three previous juvenile novels -- "Hoot", "Flush", and "Scat" -- is inhabited by a cast of characters who are well drawn for their roles. Hiaasen's characters are often pretty wacky, and though dialed back from the craziness found in his adult novels, there is an entertaining level of zaniness in "Chomp" which kids in the target audience will enjoy immensely while they learn about the environmental issues underlying the story. There are greedy, somewhat dim, bad (or at best, bad-ish) guys who exploit the environment for their own gain, and good guys who, sometimes reluctantly, find themselves going to bat for the environment.
The juvenile protagonists in the story, a (presumably middle-school age) boy with the unlikely name of Wahoo Cray and his school friend, a girl with the equally unlikely name of Tuna Gordon, are sharp, smart, resourceful kids with whom juvenile readers will identify. With his mom away in China teaching Mandarin to American businessmen, Wahoo is helping his father, animal wrangler Mickey Cray, with a job that will bring in enough money to get their home's mortgage out of hock -- hiring out their tame animals to a faked-up "survivalist" adventure TV show starring a greedy, pampered television star named Derek Badger (a one-time Irish tap dancer à la "Riverdance"; real name -- Lee Bluepenny) whose only real talent is the ability, and willingness, to eat just about anything that won't actively kill him.
When Derek's TV show, "Expedition Survival", comes to the Florida Everglades to fake yet another episode with the star supposedly surviving on his (slim) wits and (non-existent) nature skills in a howling wilderness, Mickey is hired to provide tame animals to stand in as the wild creatures Derek supposedly encounters in the 'Glades (actually the pond at the Cray's animal park). The trouble starts when the witless star decides to notch up the realism and film the episode in the middle of the actual Everglades, with real wild animals. Tuna invites herself along on the trip with Mickey & Wahoo sporting a black eye received at the hands of her drunken, maladjusted father, hoping to get away for a day or two while he cools down (and sobers up). Things start to get a little crazy a couple of days into the shoot when Derek disappears from their Everglades camp site, in the middle of a thunderstorm, after a couple of less-than-satisfactory encounters with actual wild animals wrangled for the show by Mickey -- and the trouble ramps up when Tuna's gun-toting father comes to the Everglades looking to bring her home.
As kids in Hiaasen's stories often do, Wahoo & Tuna use their wits, and courage, to handle both family problems and larger, outside issues having to do with threats to the natural environment in a manner that young readers will find entertaining, educational, and empowering. With critters galore, both tame and wild, thunderstorms, trackless swamps, airboat chases in the 'Glades, and a cast of likable and dis-likable (as they deserve) characters, "Chomp" is another hit from Carl Hiaasen that is sure to delight kids and adults alike.
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
Chomp is a funny book. It is also a little bit crazy and even zany at times. While I love reading books geared for younger audiences, I had trouble not rolling my eyes a few times with this one. It wasn't so much the crazy incidents that occurred, like Wahoo's father being hit of the head by a frozen iguana, or the naming his son "Wahoo", or the fake survivalist reality star that stumbles into trouble at every turn. I was happy to laugh at that stuff and chalk it up to good clean fun, and it was. What I had trouble with though, was some of the character interactions.
Wahoo and his father decide to help out with a TV series so that they can get caught up on financial troubles that started after a frozen iguana literally knocked the father out of work for a while. His Mother flew to Asia to earn some money tutoring, so Wahoo and his father work the TV show together. As they are packing up to leave for the wilderness, they run into a classmate named Tuna who is being abused by her drunken father. This was the part that bothered me. Wahoo doesn't know Tuna very well, but instead of getting her real help, they take her along with them on their trip. It felt so sudden and random. Naturally Wahoo and Tuna become good friends along the trip and are trying to figure out what to do with her father upon their return. Tuna's absolutely crazy father ends up chasing them into the wilderness all drunk and shooting at people. I also didn't like that after Wahoo's father is shot in the foot, he tells his son to lie to the mother and tell her one of their animals got to it. I know it sounds like I am being harsh, I just think we have to be careful with serious topics such as abuse and promote honesty. I loved the crazy reality star that gets lost and thinks he is turning into a vampire. He has absolutely NO business being in the wilderness alone and the story was funny enough and action-packed without Tuna's abusive gun-wielding father. Overall, the story was entertaining and I think that younger readers will laugh and enjoy themselves.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
This is the fourth of Hiaasen's middle grade/YA eco-themed books. I loved Hoot and Flush, haven't read Scat, yet. This was another fun read that tackles some interesting social and ecological issues. This book wasn't as much of a mystery as the previous books, it was more of a eco-thriller of sorts. I didn't like it quite as much as Hoot, but I liked it just as much as Flush.
Wahoo Cray lives with his father and mother and a ton of animals. His father is an animal wrangler and as such has numerous snakes, gators, etc living in his backyard. After being hit in the head by an iguana who fell off a tree Wahoo's dad has been having horrible headaches and trouble working. When Wahoo's mom takes a two month job in China to make ends meet, Wahoo is concerned about how he will manage his dad. Then his dad takes a job as an animal wrangler with a reality TC show called Expedition Survival! Now they have paying work, but when a girl named Tuna joins the team while fleeing her abusive father, things start to get a little crazy.
Like normal with this series of books there are some societal issues discussed: reality TV, cruelty to animals, alcoholism, and abuse. Also like normal all of these issues are meshed in with a story that is quirky and humorous at times.
The fake survivalist that Wahoo's dad is working for is an absolute hoot. He is so crazy and funny and quirky. Wahoo and Tuna are great characters as well; they are faced with some tough situations and do a bang up job of making it through everything fine.
With the crazy survivalist trying to do stranger and stranger survival stunts Wahoo's dad has his hands full keeping the guy alive. Add to this Tuna's drunk gun-slinging dad and you have a book that is more action and thriller than mystery. I did miss the mystery a little bit, but I also enjoyed all the action and zaniness throughout this book.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was an entertaining light read. If you have enjoyed Hiaasen's previous YA books (Hoot, Flush, and Scat) then I think you will also enjoy this latest story. It was just a lot of fun and full of crazy situations and quirky characters. A great read for any middle grade or older readers out there, a wonderful action-packed eco-thriller of sorts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2012
With grand plans of doing a joint guest review, my husband actually buddy-read this with our (then) ten year old daughter in late 2011. When he started animatedly telling me about it, gushing about the humor and wit, I told him that he didn't have to do the review... He got me excited for it, and being the selfish girl that I am, I wanted to review it myself. But, as it usually does, time slipped by and I got more and more backed up on my review reading. Well, imagine my excitement when I found Chomp in Audible's library (AND that it was read by Mr. Dawson's Creek himself, James Van Der Beek!)! I promptly downloaded it and gave it a listen.
I am a fan of Carl Hiaasen. Back in the day when I read books written for adults, I read quite a few of his adult novels (Skinny Dip, Sick Puppy, Nature Girl, Skin Tight, Star Island, etc.). I've also read all of his MG novels as well (Flush, Hoot, Scat). Between the facts I am already a fan, and that they show up on just about every summer reading list known to man, reading them was really a no-brainer. It just stands to reason that I would like Chomp, right? Right. I did like it. It was typical Carl Hiaasen; great characters, enticing plot and pacing, funny, adventurous, well-researched and informational, with smatterings of intelligent sarcasm throughout. Just like every other book I've read by him, it takes place in Florida, and is heavily laced with eco-speak. It is obvious that Mr. Hiaasen cares tremendously about our natural world, particularly the piece of it that we call Florida (and he calls home). As a avid bird-nerd and conservationist myself, I applaud him for lacing his books with thought-provoking dialogue related to the damage we do, as humans, to our environment. If his books open the eyes of even a small percentage of the people who read them to these facts, he has done a great service to our planet, and has entertained the masses at the same time! Bravo!
But enough about my general feelings toward Carl Hiaasen, and on to this particular book... I liked Chomp. It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't my favorite of his books, but I probably laughed most reading this one. I think the characters, or rather (for the most part), the caricatures, were the best part of the book. There were too many great ones to list here, but each one was done so well, even the most minor of them. The characterizations were spot-on; from the ratings-obsessed Hollywood producer, to the over-indulged TV star, to the bubba Everglades airboat tour guide, to the trailer-trash drunk, each added an element of entertainment and enjoyment to the story. I don't know if everyone will get the same vibe off the characters that I did because I'm a bit biased. I'm sure part of my enjoyment came from having lived in Florida for four years, and the fact that I encountered some of the latter type regularly. For me, they were what made this story great.
Told mostly from the POV of Wahoo Cray (How's that for a name? And yes, that's his REAL name!), Chomp takes us on a crazy adventure that takes us deep into the Florida Everglades, with a cast of characters that doesn't get any more bizarre. Wahoo is great, and probably the most level headed and "adult" of the entire bunch. He's the son of a renowned animal wrangler, and although his dad, Mickey, is great with the animals, he's rather flaky about the other facts of life. When Wahoo's dad is hired by the TV show, Expedition Survival, to do a show in the Everglades, the adventures kick off and just keep getting nuttier. The star of the show, Derek Badger, is a real piece of work. He is supposed to be a cross between Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls, but he is really anything but. The world sees him is this hard-core survivalist, but he is actually a pampered, spoiled, Hollywood creation (and former Irish Folk Dancer), who couldn't survive the county park without help. He is the source of a great number of the laughs, and for me, played a huge part in making this story as good as it was. Added to Derek and his drama, was Wahoo's friend, Tuna, who they accidentally rescued from her abusive father (and the trailer they lived in, in the local Walmart parking lot). While her whole situation added a bit of austerity to the story, it also provided a bunch of laughs as well, taking the story in a rather unexpected direction. Along with the laughs, I really enjoyed being a casual observer to both the way Wahoo matured throughout the book, and how his sweet, unexpected relationship with Tuna evolved. Carl Hiaasen wrote these parts so well, in in such a way that they didn't get lost beneath the laughs and adventure, and I think that takes a lot of talent.
As for the audio experience, I thought James Van Der Beek did a great job with it. I thought his voice added a nice touch, breathing life into Wahoo's character, in particular. I think I liked this book better this way, than I would have if I had just read the text version. If you are considering reading this book, and enjoy audiobooks, you should definitely give this one a shot.
Overall, I think this was a good story. Like I mentioned before, it wasn't my favorite by Carl Hiaasen, but it was well worth the listen/read. This would be a great addition to any upper elementary or middle school classroom/library. This book has appeal for not only the MG readers it was written for, but teens and adults as well. In fact, I think my husband loved it even more than my daughter did. It would be a great choice as a read-aloud for parents who still read to their older kids because both would enjoy it.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Grade Level Recommendation: Carl Hiaasen's MG books are not squeaky clean. There are usually a few swears and almost always a bit of violence, although none of it graphic or gratuitous. This book was no different. Considering this, I think Chomp is appropriate for the average 4th grader and up. (Ages 8+)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2013
This book was very humorous. What he did with the names of the characters was certainly creative.He writes alot about the environment which I think is very convenient for all of whom can't protect it because of our vile ways.He is quite an author, and I hope he writes more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Hiaasen's Chomp is another of his pleasantly written, enjoyable tales of tween and teen misadventures set in Florida that, if you're an adult, will make you sad that Hiaasen's is not channeling all these wonderful stories to more adult novels, but happy that at least the young adult crowd gets to join in the fun that seems to continually emerge in Florida.
This time, Hiaasen takes on "reality" TV shows, particularly the wilderness survival genre ala Bear Grylls. Main character Wahoo Cray and his father take jobs working as animal wrangler and assistant on a wilderness survival "reality" TV show with Derek Badger (note the similarity - Bear Grylls, Derek Badger). When it becomes apparent that Derek's idea of survival is to leave his camera crew in the wilderness to shoot animals and location shots while he relaxes in local 5-star hotels, it's all that Wahoo can do to keep his father in line. Meanwhile, Wahoo has invited along a school friend, Tuna, who is fleeing her abusive father. Together, Wahoo, Tuna, and Wahoo's father have to keep the various wild animals from killing, maiming, or otherwise scratching "survival expert" Derek Badger in his brief time on set. And when Mr. Badger takes it into his mind to stop with the fake stunts and truly go it man-o v. wild animal, things go from bad to worse.
The book skewers "reality" TV all along the way. Turns out that "reality" TV producers come up with what's called a "soft script" for each episode, and then the real people/actors ad lib to achieve the desired end. Hiaasen's genius is taking that reality and turning it on its head, poking fun at everyone as the plot moves from bad to worse.
In the end, the book is quite enjoyable, whether you're 9 or 49. I wrote this review several months after reading the book because I wanted to see if this was one of those "beach reads" that one forgets within a week. Thankfully, Chomp has pleasantly remained in mind since I read it, proof that a good story with good characters is a good read. If you're looking for the next Carl Hiassen title, Chomp is a good read you won't regret. If you're looking for something for a tween girl or boy, Chomp fits the bill perfectly as Wahoo is the boy main character and Tuna is the girl main character; perfect for boy or girl readers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2012
Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite adult authors, and I have read a few of his kid books as well (I have read every adult book he has written.) This one is more simple in plot and doesn't talk about the environment nearly as much as his books normally do. The plot is this: There is an outdoor show, "Expedition Survival" that hires the main characters of the book, Mickey and Wahoo Cray, to help them do a show in the Everglades because they are animal wranglers by trade. The star of the show is a fake, pretend survivalist, and an idiot, and Mickey Cray has to try to help him not kill himself doing something stupid. On the way to filming the on location shoot in the Everglades, the Crays come upon a girl Wahoo knows from school, named Tuna, and her father is abusing her so they decide to take her on the show shoot with them. Well, when they get there the star of the show, of course, is a moron and gets into trouble, and Tuna's dad comes looking for her, and convoluted hijinx ensues. Yes, it is far fetched, as most of his books are, but it will be enjoyed by the audience it was intended for, kids. I think there is one swear word in the whole book, Mickey Cray says "bleep" in lieu of swearing. As an adult it was a very quick read. I would think this is appropriate for 4-8 grade readers.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
I've read several of Carl Hiaasen's books for adults, but this is my first expedition into his fare for younger readers. He definitely brings his characteristic humor and absurdism to his works for younger readers, too. In fact, I think I liked this better than some of his books for adults that I've read.
The characters are a seriously wacky bunch. Wahoo lost his right thumb trying to show off to a girl; obviously, he really knows what girls like. Mickey has perpetual double vision because of getting hit on the head by that iguana. Derek is a chubby, klutzy survivalist star. Tuna, my personal favorite, dreams of being a taxonomist.
From the names, the plot, the first sentence, etc, you can probably tell that this is a silly book. There are a couple of serious themes, but, mostly, this is just a hilarious adventure. Make yourself some popcorn, sit back and prepare to laugh heartily!
If you like Dave Barry's Big Trouble, you'll undoubtedly enjoy Chomp.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
(Had to give the disclaimer in the review title.) I've lived in Florida for 33 years, first in Miami and later in a rural town north of Tampa. So I've witnessed the shenanigans that go on all over this state with unethical realtors, land developers, politicians, lobbyists, and the rich and famous.
Carl Hiaasen has a knack of showing how the everyday Floridian deals with all of the above in unusual, often crazy, ways. This book, which deals with the Everglades, is yet another example.
I came to Florida with an outsider's stereotypical perspective that it was full of old farts, sleazy property developers preying on them, and lots of swamps filled with alligators, snakes, spiders, and bugs. (That last part is true, but as Hiaasen points out, they mostly don't want anything to do with humans - except the bugs.)
So I appreciate the author's work from more than one angle. In the case of this story, I've been to the Everglades many times and out on airboats on local rivers up "here", and seen people trying to exploit the landscape and wildlife. I've also known a number of wranglers who do a valiant job of defending critters from abuse and sensationalism. The old Serpentarium in Miami was a good example of how to educate humans.
The wranglers in this story are heart-warming, and their antics carry the trademark Hiaasen humor. The hyperbole of the TV Reality Show Survivalist is adeptly done. Another must-have book for my collection. Thanks again, Mr. Hiaasen!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2012
Like all his books, Chomp is a running narrative of all things we love about the South. Very well done.