Hoot

by Carl Hiaasen
First sentence: “Roy would not have noticed the strange boy if it weren’t for Dana Matherson, because Roy ordinarily didn’t look out the window of the school bus.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There were a few mild swear words (which A found amusing), and some instances of bullying and domestic violence. It feels like a genuine middle grade book, with real middle grade heroes (yay!) and happily sits in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Ah, Florida. The air is hot and humid, it rains a ton, and Roy Eberhardt hates it. With a burning passion. He most recently lived in Montana, the land of the huge vistas and great snowboarding, but because of his dad’s job, he’s stuck in boring Florida. Until the day he notices a strange boy with dirty feet running away from the bus stop. His curiosity piqued, Roy follows the boy and discovers Something To Care About. See: Mother Paula’s Pancake House is building a new restaurant. On top of some burrowing owl dens, and the boy is bound and determined to stop the company. And Roy, for better or for worse, finds that he Cares enough to get involved.

I remember reading this ages ago — probably when it first came out — and liking it. Though, I seem to remember it being funnier than I found it this time. It was amusing, sure, especially when Bully Dana Matherson gets his come-uppance at the hands of Beatrice Leep, Tough Girl Extraordinaire. But, mostly, it’s a quiet book about Making A Difference. I like how Roy finds out that while vandalism is one way to get a corporation’s attention, there are other — possibly more effective — ways of handling it. It’s not only a fun book, it’s a lesson in civics and awareness. There are layers of complexity; Roy is bullied (a lot) and there’s some domestic issues with Beatrice. But Hiaasen did it without being preachy; this is NOT an issue book.

Which, honestly, is a mark of a talented writer. And for that reason alone more than worth the time it takes to read it.

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