A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
FEBRUARY 22:

  • It’s the birth date of Roma Gans (1894–1996), Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book series, Harry Kullman (1919–1982) The Battle Horse, and Edward Gorey (1925–2000) The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
  • Senator Edward M. Kennedy (1932–2009) was born on this day. Read My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D.C. by Edward Kennedy, illustrated by David Small. It’s also Walking the Dog Day, though dogs should have the chance to go for a good walk every day!
  • Happy birthday North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, which all became states on this day in 1889.

On February 22, 1819, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams signed the Florida Purchase Treaty, making the Spanish territory part of the United States. When I think of recent books set in Florida, Carl Hiaasen’s Newbery Honor Book Hoot, an exciting, page-turning mystery, immediately comes to mind.

Roy Eberhardt, new kid in town, has arrived from Montana to Coconut Grove, Florida. Since his father works for the Department of Justice and moves frequently for his job, Roy knows the routine—eating by himself, isolation, and bullies waiting to push him around. In fact, the book begins with the local bully, Dana Matherson, squashing Roy’s face against the bus window. While Dana is holding his head against the glass, Roy sees a towheaded boy recklessly running barefoot through the Florida landscape. When Roy decides to find this boy, nicknamed Mullet Fingers because he can catch the fish with his bare hands, Roy discovers that a new pancake house is about to be built over the dens of some extremely cute and very tiny burrowing owls. To save these small members of the biological community, Mullet Fingers has been engaging in ecoterrorism.

Soon Roy and Mullet Finger’s sister, Beatrice, get swept up in Mullet Finger’s obsession. Rather than ecoterrorism, Roy decides to rely on the law and convinces his classmates to fight for the life of these owls and their babies. Readers turn the pages breathlessly to see if these three middle school children can successfully challenge the adult community and save some fellow travelers on this planet.

Not only does this engaging story explore the issues of endangered species and biological diversity, it shows young people taking action. Filled with humor, quirky characters, and suspenseful scenes, the book also gives some of the best advice about bullies in contemporary fiction; Roy solves that problem, too, in a very creative way. A perfect choice for eight- to fourteen-year-olds, the book often appeals as well to fans of Hiaasen’s adult mysteries. After all, a well-written story, with something to say, can appeal to people of many generations.

Here’s a passage from Hoot:

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. He preferred to read comics and mystery books on the morning ride to Trace Middle.

But on this ride, a Monday (Roy would not 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.

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Originally posted February 22, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Award Winning, Ecology, Nature, Newbery, Politics, School, Science, Social Conscience
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Hoot
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COMMENTS

  1. Autumn says:

    Hoot is definitely deserving of a Newbery honor. The story is sweet, engrossing, funny, and inspiring. I agree that adults can love this book as well.

  2. Carl Hiassen is one of those rare authors who can switch between writing for adults and writing for kids. That’s possibly because while he switches audiences, he does not switch locations – Florida, which is in Hiassen’s world, home of the quirky, eccentric, extreme and depraved. I’ve read Hoot and Flush, as well as most of his adult fiction, and they are all situated in the same world. The main difference between the kids vs. adults is that one is told from a child’s point of view and the other from an adult’s. So when people ask me what’s the difference between writing for kids and writing for adults, I often point them to Hiassen’s writing as an example. Kids live in the same world as adults. They just have a different point of view.

  3. Jude says:

    This is such a good book. My son read Hoot and Flush back in fourth grade. He loved them both. I hope I’m not out of line pointing this out on a children’s book blog, but the movie Hoot is pretty good, too.

  4. Anita says:

    Peter: Great comment as always. I sense a “teaching moment,” however, so forgive me. Your distinction is on target for most contemporary books. However, a vast number of 20th century classics — Dr. Dolittle, Mary Poppins, Mrs. Piggy-Winkle, all animal fantasies including Charlotte’s Web, have not been rendered from a child’s point of view, and yet they are clearly children’s books.
    There is really no simple definition of what makes a children’s book and what doesn’t. Anita

  5. Anita – As usual, you are absolutely right, and it’s good to be reminded that a children’s book is not defined by the point of view. In fact, many picture books, which are more often directed to the younger children’s audience (notice I did not say they are only for that audience), are told from an omniscient storyteller’s voice that when read out load comes from the parent or older reader. And let’s not forget fairy tales and myths.

  6. Michael Sims says:

    Excellent point about point of view. The rule-makers of the world like to say No this and No that and meanwhile writers keep writing the stories that they themselves find exciting and amusing and emotionally true and moving, and children respond to the authenticity.

  7. Khrystyna says:

    New subscriber here. What a fantastic site this is! Anita, your work’s brilliant, thank-you very much for it. You’ve another loyal fan :)

  8. Erica S. says:

    Speaking of great books set in Florida, I really enjoyed Turtle in Paradise (a Newbery Honor for this year). It’s set in Florida during the Great Depression so the time period is a little different than Hoot, but Jennifer L. Holm also does a great job of giving the reader a distinct sense of place in the novel.

  9. Anita says:

    Erica: Thanks for the note on Turtle in Paradise. It will make an appearance later this year on the Almanac, but as you suggest a great book, particularly for 2nd-5th grade readers.

  10. Momo says:

    I too loved Hoot and for once I think the movie was quite good too. I always worry about movies but the one for Hoot is quite well done. The other aspect of Hoot that makes it a winner for me is the excellent cover design.

  11. Momo says:

    Just wanted to add that I just read Scat and it was just as terrific as Hoot – similar themes – Hiaasen writes such complex plots but I love the way he weaves all the pieces together to give a very safistying ending.

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