Customer Reviews: Hoot
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Carl Hiaasen forges into new territory: The kid book realm. Cleaned up and devoid of ... violence or much profanity, he makes a cute, quirky book that isn't limited to just kids. If anything, Mr. Hiaasen's literary gifts are more pronounced when there are no seedy elements to distract the readers.
Roy Eberhardt recently moved from beautiful Montana to the swampy mishmash of Miami, and he's not thrilled about the change. He misses his old home, and the biggest, meanest bully of all, Dana Matherson, has taken a dislike to him. But on the bus, Roy catches a glimpse of a barefoot kid racing down the sidewalk. When he sees the boy a second time, he punches out Dana and pursues the kid (called Mullet Fingers, for a reason that will become evident late in the book).
A mystery vandal is sabotaging the site of a future pancake restaurant, pulling up stakes, sprat-painting a cop car, and setting loose a bunch of glittery cottonmouths. Things don't improve when Roy encounters the boy's sister, Beatrice, a very tall jock with muscles and teeth of steel. Beatrice warns Roy to stay away from Mullet Fingers, but Roy is already quite involved. Mullet Fingers is on a one-boy campaign to save the tiny burrowing owls that live in the construction site -- and will be buried alive in their burrows when the construction begins. Roy begins walking the line between law and outlaw, right and wrong, trying to save Mullet Fingers and the tiny owls.
Roy is the kind of kid that readers love instantly -- he's a quiet Charlie Brown who comes out of his shell for a good cause. (And he moons Dana) Mullet Fingers is a little harder to pin down, a strangely but that seems to be Hiaasen's intent. Beatrice is half-hilarious, half menacing -- the scene where she bites off part of Roy's bike tire is a scream. Dana is a pain in the backside, and readers will laugh and rejoice at his comeuppance. And Hiaasen outdoes himself with Roy's parents. He doesn't make them stupid, condescending or obtuse, but rather they trust in the big corporations a bit too much. And one of the most touching elements of this book is that Roy asks his parents for their advice, and protects his kindly mother from the knowledge of how Mullet Fingers' own mother despises him.
Unlike many other adult authors who write a book for kids, Hiaasen doesn't dumb it down. He seems to have faith that his kiddie readers can handle tales of corporate double-dealing, enviromental mandayes, and paperwork that most people never have to think about. Kooky elements like a B-movie actress, an ambitious if well-meaning cop (the one whose car was painted), a baby alligator in a porta-john and a bunch of sparkling cottonmouths with taped mouths add an element of surreality to the book.
"Hoot" is a hoot, but it's also a charmingly serious novel. Kids will like Roy and the effective but realistic tactics he uses for the owls, and adults will like the thought-provoking storyline and quirky humor. A keeper.
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on November 2, 2002
I love Hiaasen's novels about Florida and all of the zany characters he creates to tell his pro-ecology stories. When I saw he had written another one I reflexivly one clicked to have it sent to me. When I got it I thought it was a tad smaller in size than the usual novel one buys in hardcover and the print seemed to be a little large, but no matter as I dove into the saga of Roy Eberhardt.
I was perhaps a couple of chapters into the book when I noticed on the fly leaf that it was a Children's Book of the Month Club selection. Really? Well, I was enjoying and as I continued to read through it I continued to be drawn along with the story of the new boy from Montana being introduced to both the beauty of Florida and it's not so beautiful experiences with developers.
In this story the guys in black work for a Pancake House conglomerate called, Mother Paula's All American Pancake House. They intend to open their 469th family style restaurant on a piece of property in Coconut Grove. The fences are up. The construction trailer is on the site. The bulldozers have arrived. All appears to be ready for construction to begin. Then things start to happen. First all the survey markers are pulled up and all the stake holes are filled in.The air is let out of the construction vehiles tires. Alligators (small ones) are put in the out house toilets. No work is being done. The date for a grand opening is approaching. Who is doing this and why are no mystery to the reader, but they are a serious question to the construction foreman, Curly, police officer Delinko and Curly's boss at headquarters, Chuck Muckle. Of course, Mother Paula's is about to be constructed on land on which there a bunch of burrowing owls. Mother Paula's people know it. No one else does until a very unusual "hero" sets in motion a wonderful string of events which leads to a predictable but very humorous conclusion.
It may have been written for children, but what the heck - we are all kids at heart.
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on September 11, 2002
I loved this book! What a fun read! This is a book which will appeal to all ages. As a fifth grade teacher I can't wait to read it to my kids. I know that many of them will identify with the main character. This definitely ranks as one of my all-time favorites right after Harry Potter and Holes. I anxiously await Mr. Hiaasen's next children's book.
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on October 15, 2002
Being a fan of Mr. Hiaasen's wonderfully twisted, weird fiction for adults, I was intrigued by the idea of him writing for a younger audience. Would there be a crazed, hulking idiot with a dead pit bull hanging off his arm? A roadkill-eating former governor? How would he present his somewhere-between-amused-and-disgusted attitude toward humanity in a manner palatable to kids?
I'm happy to report that HOOT is funny, well written, and enjoyable, even for a depraved old lady like me. The plot concerns Roy Eberhardt, an intelligent, resourceful middle-school student who has just moved to Florida from Montana. He misses the mountains and wilderness of Montana. As a kid who has moved a lot, he's not surprised to be the victim of bully Dana Matherson. While being pummeled by Dana on the school bus, Roy spies a kid running along the sidewalk, a kid with no backpack and no shoes. Intrigued, he sets out to find him and gets involved up to his eyeballs in the strange kid's guerilla tactics to save a particular street corner from its fate as the future site of another Mother Paula's All-American Pancake. The adults seem to be ignoring the burrows of tiny owls that will be buried by the bulldozing equipment any day now. Roy's parents explain that it surely is a shame about the owls, but the company must have filed all of the papers and received all of the necessary permits. But Roy and his new friends --- Mullet Fingers, the outlaw boy, and Beatrice, his tough, soccer playing stepsister --- are not about to take the destruction of the owls' burrows lying down. Along the way they outwit Officer Delinko, the ambitious cop who tries to protect the site, and Curly, the foreman who's responsible for getting the job started.
Roy's parents are thoughtful and very caring. Roy shields his tenderhearted Mom from the fact that Mullet Fingers lives in the woods and at the dump because his own mother doesn't want him. That's probably the most brutal aspect of the novel, unless perhaps it's the dishonesty of the Mother Paula's corporation in attempting to deny the existence of the endangered owls. Mr. and Mrs. Eberhardt worry about Roy and advise him, but ultimately, Roy figures out a successful plan on his own.
The book carries us along with a pleasing suspense and steady pace. The author provides neat encapsulations of each character's motivations that are often missing from adult fiction. (Presumably we can work it out for ourselves.) While it might be missing the extreme characters and profanity of his adult novels, HOOT still reflects Mr. Hiaasen's usual indignation over the rape of his native Florida. Roy is an appealing character, one who may very well inspire young readers to question authority when necessary and act to protect the environment. How subversive is that? Kids of all ages should love it.
--- Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol
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on March 25, 2014
My 9 year old son (3rd grade) enjoyed this book, but he brought it to me on several occasions and pointed out the curse words it contained! Among these were d*mn, a**, and bada**. I can't for the life of me figure out why an author would include such words in a book for children. I am sure the story would have been just as good if he had omitted the foul language. I'm disappointed and we will not be reading any more of his books. It's a shame, really.
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on September 23, 2002
As a third grade teacher I am always looking for books that not only entertain but teach a lesson. HOOT does both! My students enjoyed the story and learned about burrowing owls at the same time. They also saw the negativity of being a bully. Two lessons for the price of one. A downside for children in the eight-nine year old range was the use of a few inappropriate words. I look forward to reading this book again next year.
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on October 1, 2002
I am a big fan of Carl Hiaasen's columns and his off-the-wall novels, which focus on life in my old stomping grounds of South Florida. In interviews he has given, Mr. Hiaasen has said that he wanted to write a book that his kids could read as his adult works can be extremely crude and disturbing (although they are hilarious).
With "Hoot", I think he has made a very good first effort in the kids genre. The story line of Roy, the kid who has had to move all over the country on account of his faher's job hit pretty close to home to me as I was in the same situation growing up. Hiaasen perfectly captures the frustrations of being picked on and unaccepted as a child. His encounters with Dana, the bully are great as Roy always has a way to win out.
Roy becomes curious about a boy he sees running barefoot and after a while he learns about the boy, know as Mullet Fingers. This character comes off as a kid version of Hiaasen's infamous Skink from his novels Stormy Weather, Native Tongue and Sick Puppy. Mullet Fingers is a junior environmental terrorist who tries to sabotage a construction site which contains burrowing owls, which will be wiped out when the bulldozers roll. Roy learns all he can about the owls and the two, along with Mullet Fingers' stepsister, devise an interesting plan to stop the construction.
This is a great book for the early teenager, but I think his adult fans might get a kick out of it. There's no weed-wacker prostetics in this one or people who juggle skulls, but a fairly straight-forward story that has a message.
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on April 20, 2006
If you are into mystries, nature, and aren't afraid to try a little something different then this is a perfect book for you! This book is one of my favorites of all time!It is about a young boy, Roy who teams up with Beatrice and Mullet Fingers to stop a pancake house company from killing owls living on their construction site! It is a great adventure! I absolutely recommend it to people of all ages! Fabulous!!! You'll LOVE it!!!
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on April 21, 2014
I almost never write reviews, but I wish someone would have told me what I'm going to say before my 10 year old started reading this book. It may very well be great literature, but before you get through the first two chapters, they use the "d" word twice, introduce you to the smoking middle school bus bully, and make reference to beer cans. None of these things are horrible in and of themselves, but not what I want my 10 year old filling his mind with. Our world is filled with enough garbage that I have to explain and talk to my kids about. When it is time to choose the things we are going to entertain ourselves with and think about, why would we choose more garbage. I've heard the book is great, and I wish I could tell you, but I threw it away after reading the first two chapters.
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on October 30, 2002
Hiaasen takes a while to get into the kid lit groove. The first third of the book seems a bit confused, as Hiaasen fights his urge to steer his characters into his usual adults-only mayhem. He fashions a protagonist who is unreasonably precocious and spends too much time setting up adult characters.

And then, when Roy's mother has a bed-time heart-to-heart with her son, Hiaasen finds his groove. The rest of the book flies (pardon the pun) as Hiaasen finds the right balance of madcap action for the "tween" reader.

Adults who are put off by profanity will find this an appropriate introduction to Hiaasen's sly humor and progressive outlook. And kids who can make it through the first third of the book will find their reward in a heart-warming and hilarious epilogue.

If you read "The Lorax" to your children as toddlers, give them "Hoot" when they start reading novels. They'll love it.
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