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.
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.
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.
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.
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+)
on December 30, 2015
I am an adult who read this book to help out with our Lit Wars contest participants. These students are in 4th-5th grade. I think the humor and conflict in the book are geared more for a 7th-8th grade maturity level and if I were choosing the books for this contest, I would not pick this book for this grade level. There are adult themes in this book - child abuse/neglect, alcoholism, gun violence. But there is a lot of humor in the book as well (poking fun at reality "survivalist" tv shows) and I really enjoyed it.
on December 19, 2015
If Carl writes it just buy it, his books are a lot of fun. If you want to read a book that'll have you laughing out loud, try one called Skin Tight. He's really good, if he writes it, I buy it, it's the same with Elmore Leonard, if he wrote it, I buy it.
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.
on July 15, 2012
A few years ago "Man vs. Wild" with Bear Grylls and "Survivorman" with Les Stroud were the two biggest survivalist shows out there. Now we have "Hillbilly Handfishin," "Swamp People" and a bunch of other really odd shows that remain strangely compelling.
But for a while, Bear Grylls was the man. He was a good looking man with an accent that made him sound far more knowledgeable than perhaps he truly was. It turned out that Bear's reality show wasn't as a real as he led us to believe. He wasn't really sleeping all night in a leaf woven hammock suspended between two trees to avoid predators. He was camping out at a hotel. And when it looked like he was miles from civilization, he was usually only a few feet from the road.
Now his show comes with a disclaimer that scenes have been presented to Bear so he can demonstrate survival techniques, but the luster is gone. Les Stroud is now my man. When he goes out on location, he goes by himself. He is his own writer, producer and film crew. He may not be as exciting, but I think he could take Bear.
"Chomp" by Carl Hiaasen is Hiaasen's fourth book for kids, following "Hoot," "Flushed" and "Scat." And it follows the same vein as the other three. It's nature based. It has characters with wild names like Wahoo and Tuna. And in "Chomp," our villain is a Bear Grylls/Steve Irwin wannabe named Derek Badger. Wahoo and his father, Mickey are hired to babysit/wrangle animals for an episode of Derek's show, but things quickly spiral out of control.
Tuna, an abused girl living in an RV with her dad in the Walmart parking lot, tags along with Wahoo. Derek is bitten by a bat and thinks he's turning into a vampire and Tuna's dad, a drunk bleeping jerk of a man with a fondness for guns, follows Tuna to bring her home.
Though Hiassen has hinted of kids with troubled family lives in his other novels--I'm thinking of Mullet Fingers in "Hoot," he has never been this explicit with the topic of child abuse. Though "Chomp" has Hiaasen's trademark humor, the subplot of Tuna's dad is disturbing and frightening.
"Chomp" was a quick read, perhaps too quick. Sometimes I like the plot to simmer a little before ramping up. "Chomp" moves at full speed pretty much from start to finish.
"Hoot" will always be my favorite of the Hiaasen kid books. I can't even remember the plotlines for "Flushed" and "Scat." So I would rank "Chomp" behind "Hoot" but ahead of the others.
on April 16, 2012
"Chomp" should get five stars for the nifty cover design alone, but the witty and unflagging intelligence of the content certainly cements the rating. Social commentator and satirist Hiaasen takes aim at one of his favorite general categories of offender in this book--the Phony; in this case, an over-the-hill TV nature "explorer" with a penchant for making grisly meals of his animal costars. Much of the action is set in the Florida Everglades, where the self-named Derek Badger has come to shoot a survival flick that pits him against the local fauna. In most cases, Badger's fauna opponents are tame and rented, but this time around the big man (aiming for a major raise in his contract salary) insists on real wild animals in order to boost the action and excitement. In true Hiaasen fashion, things go downhill for the poser pretty quickly after that.
The book has a full contingent of wonderful characters, with two high school age kids fronting as the main protagonists. The adults on board are a mix of principled and venal, but nothing as crazy wild as is the norm for some of Hiaasen's adult books. In many ways, the animal characters are the biggest stars and will certainly be a big hit with the young readers of the book. The cast includes a monster alligator (Alice), a humongous python (Beulah), a wild bat and a wild water snake. The basic message to the readers is even these fearsome creatures are not so dangerous if left alone and observed from a respectful distance.
The author gives his story line enough edge to keep it interesting and moving along at a good pace, but no one suffers the kind of torments and painful death that is often on offer for villains in the adult books. Respect for animals, the absolute unacceptability of child abuse (and what to do about it) and the inside story of documentary film making are all themes explored in this great book for tweeners and above.
The next time I tune into a PBS nature film starring a spray-tanned, grinning host who is never out of the frame for more than 10 seconds, I will be thinking of "Chomp" and Hiassen's hilarious sendup of the genre. Hightly recommended.