Book Review: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Book Review: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Hoot.pngHoot by Carl Hiaasen is a must-read 2003 Newbery Honor Book. It follows the story of Roy Eberhardt, the new kid in school who has just moved to Florida. He’s picked on by bullies and hates the heat. But when one day he sees a boy about his age running out the bus window, Roy’s life changes. The boy is not wearing any shoes, not carrying a backpack and not carrying books. Who is this boy?

When strange things start occuring on a new pancake house’s construction site, the whole town is interested. Alligators show up in the porta-potties. Snakes start slithering around. Stakes are moved. Seats removed from heavy equipment. What is going on?

Roy eventually catches up with “the running boy” and learns the pancake house is about to be constructed on top of a protected owl species who burrows in the ground. And the running boy is the only one doing anything about it. Roy, wanting to help both the boy and the owl, gets involved and discovers the Environmental Impact Study done by the pancake house is missing from the courthouse, and the pancake house claims no owls live there.

When the dedication ceremony day arrives for the pancake house, Roy hatches a plan. He enlists the help of his school friends, and they form a protest. The running boy buries himself in a owl burrow, and when an owl lands on his head, no one can deny owls live there.

The theme of the book is stated nicely by Roy’s mother: “Sometimes you’re going to be faced with situations where the line isn’t clear between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your heart will tell you to do one thing, and your brain will tell you to do something different. In the end, all that’s left is to look at both sides and go with your best judgment.”

Great theme of standing up for what’s right even when others say you’re wrong, fighting authority when authority is wrong, and following what your heart says to do. Excellent book. Laugh-out-loud funny (like when Roy comments how adults lie to make themselves look more important). Easy to read and a quick pace. And who doesn’t love owls?

Advertisements

Surviving the Applewhites

Image result for surviving the applewhitesAnother gem from the Newbery Honor books, Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan is an entertaining, funny novel about a delinquent boy who, having been kicked out of school, is forced to be homeschooled by the Applewhite family, themselves an eclectic bunch of misfits.  In fact, there are so many characters that in the beginning it’s hard to keep them all straight!

Destiny, the youngest Applewhite, is 4 years old and ends up idolizing Jake Semple, the delinquent boy, along with the basset hound, Winston.  Both are attached to Jake’s hip despite his disapproval.  E.D, the closest to Jake’s age and the one put in charge of helping him in his education, is the only normal Applewhite.  Studious and industrious, she loves learning and doing the right thing.  Her mother is a successful writer.  Her father a successful director.  Her brother, Hal, is a recluse and never leaves his room except in the middle of the night to eat.  Her sister, Cordelia, is a composer and choreographer.  Her grandpa and uncle make furniture.  Her aunt is a poet.

When her father’s current production of the Sound of Music loses its stage, the Applewhites come together and use their talents to save the play by hosting the play in their barn.  E.D. becomes the stage manager.  Her grandpa and uncle make the stage.  Her brother Hal leaves his room to paint.  Destiny and Jake both are cast in the play and Jake begins to realize he has talent as well.  Her mother and aunt make the costumes.

Throw in a zany wanna-be-film-director and an Indian chef (“passion is necessary to all of life”) along with colorful characters from the small North Carolina town and you have a delightful tale sure to delight and entertain.  The character arc of both E.D. and Jake are great with both learning life lessons, discovering what life is about and what gives them job, and learning how all things are possible.  Highly recommended.  Great for kids of all ages (there’s no love interest or any talk of attraction).  Awesome book showing a family coming together in times of crisis.  Purely a joy to read!