In some ways, Hoot by Carl Hiassen is a coming-of-age story, which is probably why I like it. It tells the story of Roy Eberhardt who just moved from Montana to Florida. He is immediately targeted by the two school bullies and nicknamed “cowgirl”. Poor kid. Even while being tormented, he is intrigued by a boy running away from the bus stop without shoes. The story continues to reveal that an international pancake enterprise (the fictional enemy of IHOP) plans to move into town right where several families of burrowing owls live.
This book, intended for young adults, hits on environmental issues and unsettled households with an array of serious and comical characters. I think it would be a fun book to read with middle school students in a classroom. The story could promote discussion about big businesses, environmental consciousness, and moral dilemmas, and there’s plenty to talk about on the literary side of the conversation.
Hiassen does a good job of creating memorable characters while also driving a plot forward. The book contains Mullet Fingers, a runaway teenager who abandons his name; Chuck E. Muckle, a big-headed CEO; Curly Branitt, the dim-witted foreman; Officer Delinko, an officer trying to get ahead; and most importantly Roy Eberhardt, a kid learning to adapt. Most characters remain static, but the author makes them appear dynamic by only revealing bits of their characters at a time and by driving the plot forward very quickly.
I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly to any middle school or early high school student, but I also wouldn’t stop an adult from reading (or re-reading) this book because of the strong environmental argument. We can all learn a lesson from Mullet Fingers and Roy about standing up for what you believe is right no matter who stands beside you.
Now to see if the 2006 movie is any good.