Recently, I finished reading Hoot, an 292-page realistic fiction book by Carl Hiaasen who was born in 1953 and raised in Plantation, Florida, then a rural suburb of Fort Lauderdale. He was the first of four children born to Odel and Patricia Hiaasen. He has Norwegian and Irish ancestry. He started writing at age six when his father bought him a typewriter for Christmas After graduating from Plantation High Schoolin 1970, he entered Emory University, where he contributed satirical humor columns to the student-run newspaper The Emory Wheel In 1972, he transferred to the University of Florida, where he wrote for The Independent Florida Alligator. Hiaasen graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism. Hoot is one of the many books by Carl. It has sold more than 100,000 copies and has been translated into 29 languages. This was the first time I have read this book, and just as i thought, I did not like it. I think it was more of an acquired taste.
In the novel Hoot, the setting takes place in Florida, and it’s about a boy named Roy who makes only two friends and a bad enemy, and joins an effort to stop construction of a pancake house which would destroy a colony of burrowing owls who live on the site. The book won a Newbery Honor award in 2003. One day Roy noticed a boy running away from something. As he was staring out the window, Dana, his new bully, starts to dig his nails into Roy’s scull and teases him. Then Roy decided that he would start standing up for himself for once. He starts talking back so Dana begins to choke him; out of self defense Roy punches Dana in the nose and runs out of the bus, which was conveniently at the next stop. He then runs after the boy he sees and then once he gets close he gets hit in the head with a golf ball, therefore, getting knocked out. Next thing he knows, he’s not allowed on the bus anymore because of his behavior. As the story continues he gets to know Beatrice, the jock, and she tells his about the endangered burrowing owls that might get killed by bulldozers and her brother who is trying to save them. Roy wants to help the birds, so he takes it into his own hands and does the legal work.
I was very surprised when Roy all of a sudden punches Dana in the face, because all he was saying to himself was how big, strong, and intimidating he was. Another important detail is that Dana is an eighth grader and Roy is in seventh grade, which isn’t a huge gap but Dana is significantly taller than Roy. Roy even stated that he was short and scrawny. The randomness of the attack is intentional, I think. Plainly put, he is saying to the reader: “This is going to be a complicated story.”
I liked the way the author included many “Contrasts and Contradictions” moments. Near the end, for example, Roy just out of random decided to moon Dana to get his attention. Roy would never do this! He seems to be a very introverted person and can’t make friends quickly which shows shyness as a characteristic. He even went out of his way to climb on the house to get to Dana’s window to knock on it!
In some ways, this book reminded me of Surviving the Applewhites which i read a while ago. These books imply that school is tough and complicated.
Finally, I was interested in this passage, when Roy sees Mullet-Fingers for the first time in the story. Hiaasen writes:
“Roy would not have noticed the strange boy if it weren’t for Dana Matherson, because Roy didn’t normally look out the window. He prefered to read comics and mystery books on the morning ride to trace middle.
But this day, a Monday (Roy would never forget), Dana Matherson grabbed Roy’s head from behind and pressed his thumbs into Roy’s temple, as if he were squeezing a soccer ball. The older kids were supposed to stay in the back of the bu, but Dana had snuck up behind Roy’s seat and ambushed him. When he tried to wriggle free, Dana mushed his face against the window. It was then, squinting through the smudged glass, that Roy spotted the strange boy running on the sidewalk.”
What I love about this passage is it highlights the author’s craft: long, detailed thoughts that went through the child’s head. Much of the book is like this and that is what makes it wonderful. Hoot is a 4 out of 10.