Hoot – Carl Hiaasen

hootReading level: 5.8

Genre: Realistic fiction

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: Middle school

This is a clever little book! It takes two (seemingly) separate plots with different characters and gradually brings them together in a way that isn’t too obvious or too confusing (as it often happens with multiple plots). One one hand, I rooted for the kids who tried to protect the owls. But on the other hand, I rooted for the adults (the policeman and the foreman) who would have killed the owls, because they were far less evil than their counterparts, the corporation folk. Talk about split loyalty.

One issue I had was that Roy’s parents were too perfect. I know I say that a lot. But the only issue he had with his parents was that they wouldn’t let him go on some adventure because they had to have family time. Ugh, family time.

However, Roy’s perfect parents were juxtaposed with Beatrice’s lousy parents (at least her step-mother). All in all, though, the story just screamed “white middle class” to me. And that’s fine. It’s just not an accurate representation of many of America’s school children.

Roy as a character was pretty awesome, and this wasn’t the typical new kid in town book. Beatrice, the token female (besides Roy’s mom and Beatrice’s step-mom) was pretty awesome, too. She was tough and stood up for herself (and others) but sensitive at times. She is introduced as a bully, but as we learn her story, we learn that she’s not really a bully at all; she’s just protective.

Dana was the classic bully, and I was bummed that we didn’t see his other side like we saw Beatrice’s. Dana clearly had a lousy home life with an abusive mom and a do-nothing father. Granted, Roy tried to patch things up with Dana, so the kid clearly had the opportunity to turn over a new leaf or what have you. However, there wasn’t that clear of a link between Dana’s home life and the reason he was a bully. I understood the link because I’m an “adult,” but will kids understand that? I think it’s a valuable lesson to explore: people are often bullies because they were bullied or at least need to make themselves feel tough because they’re compensating for a lack of self-esteem or safety. In the end, Dana was put in jail and that’s the end of him. We don’t learn to feel pity for another youth gone astray. Again, Roy treated Dana with kindness and civility (for the most part), but it came too late in Dana’s life. More than fearing for the lives of the owls, I feared for Dana. And in the end, it was Dana who was lost.

Interestingly, although the story all but ignored the reasons for Dana’s situation, it was obvious that a bad parent was the reason for Beatrice’s brother’s delinquency. The kid turned out fine, which is why we relate to and feel sorry for him, but we aren’t made to feel terrible for Dana.

Some good news is that it’s ELL-friendly, has minimal curse words, and has no romance. It’s a bit juvenile for high school shelves, but I don’t think there’s anything that might make a parent mad.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. HOLLY
    May 05, 2013 @ 13:05:22

    I remember reading this in elementary school…. I was so excited when the movie came out! Great review!


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