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VINE VOICEon October 1, 2005
IN the spring of 2002 I wrote about Carl Hiaasen's first children's book, HOOT:

"Carl Hiaasen does an incredible job of showing the different styles of activism that different people resort to. He presents the reader with the contemporary clash of free enterprise versus global ecological issues. He has a lot to say between the lines about parenting, and he has some great insights into the methods of dealing with bullies.

"I've never read his adult books, but I sure hope Hiaasen writes more books for kids. HOOT is one heck of a first step into the world of children's literature."

So I was, of course, ecstatic that both the 2003 Newbery committee and 2003 Best Books for Young Adults committee recognized HOOT.

I was somewhat less thrilled about having to wait three long years for the pleasure of reading a second children's book by Hiaasen. And while FLUSH is a completely different story, everything that delighted me three years ago about reading HOOT is equally applicable to FLUSH.

"The deputy told me to empty my pockets: two quarters, a penny, a stick of bubble gum, and a roll of grip tape for my skateboard. It was pitiful.

" 'Go on inside. He's waiting for you,' the deputy said.

"My dad was sitting alone at a bare metal table. He looked pretty good, all things considered. He wasn't even handcuffed.

" 'Happy Father's Day,' I said.

"He stood up and gave me a hug. 'Thanks, Noah,' he said."

So begins FLUSH, the story of what happens after Paine Underwood pulls the plug on the Coral Queen and willingly gets arrested for doing so.

The Coral Queen is a three-tiered casino boat owned by Dusty Muleman. Dusty has been making a killing off of the boat's operations because he worked a deal with the local Native Americans to park the boat in a marina on their lands, give them a cut of the take and, thus, avoid having to take the customers a few miles offshore to gamble like all the other casino boat operators are required to do. What Noah's dad is so hot about is that he is sure that the raw sewage periodically washing up on Thunder Beach is the result of the Coral Queen's holding tanks being emptied illegally into the water.

A 60 Minutes piece about the author that was broadcast last month, "Florida: 'A Paradise of Scandals' "[...] introduces Hiaasen:

"In a little less than a century, the state of Florida has been transformed from a largely uninhabited swamp to the fourth-largest state in the union. And no one has written about that transformation more successfully than Carl Hiaasen.

"Part humorist, part muckraker, his satirical novels about greed, crime and corruption in the Sunshine State have become fixtures on the best-seller list and embraced by influential literary critics who compare him to Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken.

"He is also an award-winning children?s author and a former investigative reporter-turned-columnist for the Miami Herald.

"And he has made a career of documenting, analyzing and interpreting what may be the most bizarre state in the union -- and one, Hiaasen says, is 'a victim of its own geography.' "

In the 60 Minutes interview Hiaasen talked about how being out on the water in his skiff is like church for him. In that regard, reading FLUSH feels like you are peering in even closer at the heart of Carl Hiaasen.

When I discussed HOOT three years ago, I mentioned that it contained humor, a bit of sadness, and a touch of suspense. All three qualities are once again present in FLUSH. So are the wildly quirky characters, from the bully (Jasper Muleman Jr.), to the brute (Luno), to the buxom blonde (Shelly), the bum (Lice Peeking), the bumbling attorney (Mr. Shine), and the mysterious pirate.

Carl Hiaasen is a master at storytelling. That he has utilized his superb talents to once again write a satirical novel about greed, crime and corruption in the Sunshine State for children (and me) is cause for celebration.

Thanks, Carl!
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There aren't many books that can appeal to both a grandfather and granddaughter, without leaving one or both of them feeling just a little shortchanged. Flush is that very, very rare exception!

Carl Hiassen has mixed in his usual elements into a froth that's appropriate for youths, but remains equally appealing to adults. There's a comic bad guy who values profit over quality of life (in this case the owner of a floating casino); a few witless thugs (both adult and kid-sized) and a man with anger management issues (a little reminiscent of the guy in Sick Puppy). But the heart of the story rests with the narrator, Noah and his little sister Abbey, two kids that share their dad's love for the Florida Keys.

Noah's dad has already tried to stop the Coral Queen casino boat from dumping raw sewage into water around the Keys, by sinking it. Unfortunately, the efforts of the local sheriff have restricted his ability to follow through once the boat is raised and reopened within a week. That leaves Noah and Abbey to find a way to shut down the boat, and clear their dad before their mom loses her patience and leaves him. But how do you prove that a specific boat is the source of foul bacteria and worse, especially when there's rat in the Coast Guard office that tips off the boat's operator whenever they are about to pop a surprise inspection?

It helps if you're resourceful and don't mind riding your bike everywhere. It also helps if you befriend a semi-rough blonde with a barb wire tattoo, and can stay clear of the boat owner's bully of a son.

I bought this book for my 10 year old granddaughter and she loved it! Then I read it and loved it. Within a month or so I suspect that everyone in the family will have finished it, with similar results.
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on January 18, 2006
This was an excellent book , with a great story line, that doesn't keep you guessing but definately keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Flush is about a boy named Noah , and the things he has to put up with , because of his father Paine ( who can be a real Pain ) who sunk the Coral Queen a casino boat who has been dumping human waste into the ocean. This is not only disgusting, but really unhealthy for ocean life and people. But no one believed Noah's father when he told them the reason he sunk the Coral Queen. He was actually put in jail. So Now Noah has taken it into his own hands to prove his father right. It's amazing what he gets himself into, and how far he is willing to go.

This is a great realistic Fiction book for middle school boys, because the book is told from a boy's point of view and has that boyish humor to it.
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on July 3, 2006
I enjoyed flush just as much as I enjoyed Hoot. My only word of caution is that the book has many more adult overtunes, and there is one entire chapter that gets the book kicked out of my outloud reading program at school. I think that even kids as young as 13 may lack the maturity for some of the situations in the book.
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on January 8, 2006
There is a lot to love about this book. For confirmed Hiaasen fans, and I am one, he finds his groove here and stays with it until the end. His characters are complex ones for any genre but especially young adult fiction. They are, like most of us, a very human mix of desirable and undesirable traits merged to create complex people facing difficult situations. Hiaasen doesn't preach, he doesn't dilute and he doesn't dumb down the book for its intended audience. He remains true to his themes of environmentalism, respect for others and the power of the brain over brawn. All are good lessons for his intended audience and for their folks as well.

The book is well written, the vocabulary rich, the story complex and exciting and Hiaasen keeps it real. The parents (Thank you!!) are not some dumb, clueless dopes who can't get a handle on their children. The children do not have the run of their house. There are consequences for your actions for both the adults and the children in the story. Carl Hiaasen keeps the relationships between parents and children so real in this book. I just can't say enough about how really good this story is.

For those of you who have enjoyed Hiaasen's adult novels through the years, take heart. Though he remains true to the high adventure that has been his trademark he has lost the language that has sometimes marred his storytelling. This cleaned up, PG rated novel is the best book I've read in a very long time. I hope that many of you will enjoy it with your child like I have mine.
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on October 11, 2005
Quick-pacing, wacky characters, and concern for the environment are hallmarks of all Carl Hiassen's bestselling books. FLUSH is his second children's book, and although it isn't quite as funny as HOOT (which garnered him a Newbery Honor), it satisfies on all levels.

Brother and sister Noah and Abbey (named after the late Edward Abbey) are out to prove their dad wasn't making it up when he claimed a local casino boat owner had been dumping sewage illegally overboard, where it fouls a local beach. Unfortunately their Dad, taking a cue from THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG has gone a little too far to make his point -- by sinking the boat -- and is put in jail, where he compares himself to Nelson Mandela and begins granting media interviews.

One man's civil disobedience is another's sabotage, and Noah finds himself in the middle, as his mother is angry enough to use the D word (divorce). Noah and Abbey set out to prove their father's motive was pure, and after many plot twists, they manage to do so in a thoroughly satisfying way.
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on June 1, 2007
Flush is about a teenage boy, Noah, who tries to save the environment, by following his dad's footsteps. The story begins with Noah's dad in jail accused of sinking a casino boat after realizing that the owner of the boat had been dumping sewage waste into the water ruining the water quality and habitat of turtles and fish. Noah and his sister then try to explain their dad's action by trying to document and find evidence of the dumping.

I think Flush is a fascinating book. The characters have unique and interesting personalities. I especially like Noah's courage and his dedication to helping his family and to protect the environment. I recommend Flush to anyone who is concerned with saving the environment.
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on March 9, 2015
This is a kid's book- and as an adult I LOVED it. I am a Carl Hiaasen fan, and love that a book like this can also inspire kids toward environmental awareness and possibly activism. I initially thought the concept was a bit far fetched - a gambling boat operation flushing raw sewage into the river upon which it sat. Who dies that in 2015? Hasn't this sort of low life crime been eliminated? Apparently not, and I was shocked to read a real wolrd case 2 weeks after finishing the book. The Anchorage Daily News had an article about a floating strip club off Kodiak island in Alaska piping raw sewage from the "Wild Alaskan" directly into the harbor and lying to the Coast Guard abDarren Byler, general manager of Alaska Leader Tours and owner of the floating strip club Wild Alaskan on, Dec. 1, 2104. Byler and his wife are accused of piping waste from bathrooms on the Wild Alaskan directly into the Kodiak harbor, then lying about it to investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard. out it. This was the EXACT same scenario in this children's book!
The more I read Hiaasen, the more I realize that many elements of his plots, although containing exaggerated characters for entertainment, seem to be based upon plausible scenarios.
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on June 13, 2006
This time I didn't make the mistake of not realizing that Flush was a "young readers" book when I ordered it as I did with Hoot, his first such novel. I didn't care, because based on my prior experience, I expected an entertaining and pure Hiaasen adventure and I was not disappointed.

Hiaasen has a way of writing his pro-ecology novels whether for us seasoned citizens or for younger readers which demands constant refueling on the part of the reader. His villians are alway very villanous and his good guys are often flawed, but always but always endearing.

In this book the good guys are a family named Underwood, Mom and Dad (Donna and Price) and the kids (Noah and Abbey). Price has taken offense that a bad guy named Muleman who owns a casino boat tied up in their harbor sees fit to simply empty the boat's holding tanks into the harbor rather than into a pump out system. To deal with the issue he has gone aboard the boat and pulled the seacocks sending the Casino Queen to the bottom. Following his arrest Price refuses to let his wife bail him out and decides to use his incarceration as a bully pulpit to talk to the press about Muleman's activities. He references Nelson Mandela as his role model.

Muleman has insulated himself from investigation and prosecution in numerous ways and the remainder of the book involves getting Dad out of jail and keeping him out, exposing the truth about Muleman and generally seeing that justice is done.

As usual it is done in a very entertaing and creative way. There are other characters who populate the book you will enjoy as well. So, no matter that Hiassen wrote this for young readers. You are only as old as you feel and after reading this you will feel yound indeed.
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VINE VOICEon December 7, 2005
As a big Hiaasen fan, I had to check out his second juvenile effort, and was well rewarded for it. While seriously toned down in comparison to his books for adults, "Flush" maintained the off-beat flavor of his other works, as if one of them was written from a kid's perspective.

Noah Underwood is seriously worried his parents will get divorced when his father's latest stunt has him behind bars. Paine Underwood, an environmentalist, just can't sit back and do nothing while Dusty Muleman pollutes the waters with sewage from his casino boat, so he sinks the boat. Unfortunately, it was only in twelve feet of water, so it's only a matter of days before the "Coral Queen" is back in business.

Noah wants to help his father nail Dusty Muleman, but it seems hopeless, since witnesses won't cooperate and the casino owner seems to have the coast guard in his pocket. Then, Noah and his sister Abbey concoct a great scheme to stop the polluter once and for all.

Hiaasen does a great job with the characters in this story, from the bullies bedeviling Noah to the mysterious old pirate who keeps coming to his aid (alas, not Skink). He gets his environmental message across, as well, in a non-preachy way that both kids and adults can relate to. I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages.
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