Tuesday, June 14, 2005


by Carl Hiaasen, 2002, Chad Lowe (Narrator)

I was leery of Hiaasen's venture into the children's / YA realm because his previous writing has been for "grown-ups." I am amused by mainstream authors who think they can write for kids yet do not understand their audience. Ultimately most of them are unsuccessful (James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell.)

I listened to this book and really enjoyed it. It is a 2003 Newbery Honor book. It has comedy, drama and an environmental message.

I do wonder how many teens really endorse this book as much of the humor comes from three rather hapless adult characters in the book. They may enjoy the ribbing the characters receive. Ultimately, I think Hiaasen is successful in recounting the adventures of Roy Eberhardt, the new kid from Montana who has arrived at Trace Middle School in Coconut Grove, Florida.

He is the target of an oafish bully and is trying to avoid being killed on the school bus when he sees a boy his own age running barefoot alongside the bus. The image of the kid stays in his head and after lots of investigation he determines that the boy is homeless by choice and the step-brother of a school mate, Beatrice.

Through his new acquaintences he becomes embroiled in an effort to save a group of burrowing owls whose habitat is threatened by the construction of a Mother Paula's Pancake house. The construction site has suffered a series of pranks and light hearted sabotage which has delayed the bulldozing of the construction zone.

As an adult I appreciated that Roy has two loving and supportive parents to contrast the rather bleak homelife of Beatrice and her step-brother, nicknamed Mullet Fingers. The interactions between Roy and the bully Dana Matherson are hilarious. Hiaasen's descriptions of the Everglades and natural places are mystical.

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