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Written by Carl HiaasenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Carl Hiaasen


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: September 10, 2002
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89027-7
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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ISBN: 978-0-307-20697-8
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On Sale: September 10, 2002
ISBN: 978-0-8072-0924-0
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A book for young readers. It involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, and pint-sized owls. A hilarious
Floridian adventure!


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 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 bus, but Dana had snuck up behind Roy's seat and ambushed him. When Roy 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 along the sidewalk. It appeared as if he was hurrying to catch the school bus, which had stopped at a corner to pick up more kids.

The boy was straw-blond and wiry, and his skin was nutbrown from the sun. The expression on his face was intent and serious. He wore a faded Miami Heat basketball jersey and dirty khaki shorts, and here was the odd part: no shoes. The soles of his bare feet looked as black as barbecue coals.

Trace Middle School didn't have the world's strictest dress code, but Roy was pretty sure that some sort of footwear was required. The boy might have been carrying sneakers in his backpack, if only he'd been wearing a backpack. No shoes, no backpack, no books-strange, indeed, on a school day.

Roy was sure that the barefoot boy would catch all kinds of grief from Dana and the other big kids once he boarded the bus, but that didn't happen....

Because the boy kept running-past the corner, past the line of students waiting to get on the bus; past the bus itself. Roy wanted to shout, "Hey, look at that guy!" but his mouth wasn't working so well. Dana Matherson still had him from behind, pushing his face against the window.

As the bus pulled away from the intersection, Roy hoped to catch another glimpse of the boy farther up the street. However, he had turned off the sidewalk and was now cutting across a private yard-running very fast, much faster than Roy could run and maybe even faster than Richard, Roy's best friend back in Montana. Richard was so fast that he got to work out with the high school track squad when he was only in seventh grade.

Dana Matherson was digging his fingernails into Roy's scalp, trying to make him squeal, but Roy barely felt a thing. He was gripped with curiosity as the running boy dashed through one neat green yard after another, getting smaller in Roy's vision as he put a wider distance between himself and the school bus.

Roy saw a big pointy-eared dog, probably a German shepherd, bound off somebody's porch and go for the boy. Incredibly, the boy didn't change his course. He vaulted over the dog, crashed through a cherry hedge, and then disappeared from view.

Roy gasped.

"Whassamatter, cowgirl? Had enough?"

This was Dana, hissing in Roy's right ear. Being the new kid on the bus, Roy didn't expect any help from the others. The "cowgirl" remark was so lame, it wasn't worth getting mad about. Dana was a well-known idiot, on top of which he outweighed Roy by at least fifty pounds. Fighting back would have been a complete waste of energy.

"Had enough yet? We can't hear you, Tex." Dana's breath smelled like stale cigarettes. Smoking and beating up smaller kids were his two main hobbies.

"Yeah, okay," Roy said impatiently. "I've had enough."

As soon as he was freed, Roy lowered the window and stuck out his head. The strange boy was gone.

Who was he? What was he running from?

Roy wondered if any of the other kids on the bus had seen what he'd seen. For a moment he wondered if he'd really seen it himself.

That same morning, a police officer named David Delinko was sent to the future site of another Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House. It was a vacant lot at the corner of East Oriole and Woodbury, on the eastern edge of town.

Officer Delinko was met by a man in a dark blue pickup truck. The man, who was as bald as a beach ball, introduced himself as Curly. Officer Delinko thought the bald man must have a good sense of humor to go by such a nickname, but he was wrong. Curly was cranky and unsmiling.

"You should see what they done," he said to the policeman.


"Follow me," the man called Curly said.

Officer Delinko got in step behind him. "The dispatcher said you wanted to report some vandalism."

"That's right," Curly grunted over his shoulder.

The policeman couldn't see what there was to be vandalized on the property, which was basically a few acres of scraggly weeds. Curly stopped walking and pointed at a short piece of lumber on the ground. A ribbon of bright pink plastic was tied to one end of the stick. The other end was sharpened and caked with gray dirt.

Curly said, "They pulled 'em out."

"That's a survey stake?" asked Officer Delinko.

"Yep. They yanked 'em out of the ground, every damn one.

"Probably just kids."

"And then they threw'em every which way," Curly said, waving a beefy arm, "and then they filled in the holes."

"That's a little weird," the policeman remarked. "When did this happen?"

"Last night or early this morning," Curly said. "Maybe it don't look like a big deal, but it's gonna take a while to get the site marked out again. Meantime, we can't start clearin' or gradin' or nuthin'. We got backhoes and dozers already leased, and now they gotta sit. I know it don't look like the crime of the century, but still-"

"I understand," said Officer Delinko. "What's your estimate of the monetary damage?"


"Yes. So I can put it in my report." The policeman picked up the survey stake and examined it. "It's not really broken, is it?"

"Well, no-"

"Were any of them destroyed?" asked Officer Delinko. "How much does one of these things cost-a buck or two?"

The man called Curly was losing his patience. "They didn't break none of the stakes," he said gruffly.

"Not even one?" The policeman frowned. He was trying to figure out what to put in his report. You can't have vandalism without monetary damages, and if nothing on the property was broken or defaced....

"What I'm tryin' to explain," Curly said irritably, "it's not that they messed up the survey stakes, it's them screwing up our whole construction schedule. That's where it'll cost some serious bucks."
Carl Hiaasen

About Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen - Hoot

Photo © Tim Chapman

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida. He is the author of eleven previous novels, including the best-selling Nature Girl, Skinny Dip, Sick Puppy, and Lucky You, and three best-selling children’s books, Hoot, Flush, and Scat. His most recent work of nonfiction is The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport. He also writes a weekly column for The Miami Herald.

Praise | Awards


“It seems unlikely that the master of noir-tinged, surrealistic black humor would write a novel for young readers. And yet, there has always been something delightfully juvenile about Hiaasen’s imagination; beneath the bent cynicism lurks a distinctly 12-year-old cackle. In this thoroughly engaging tale of how middle schooler Roy Eberhardt, new kid in Coconut Cove, learns to love South Florida, Hiaasen lets his inner kid run rampant, both the subversive side that loves to see grown-ups make fools of themselves and the righteously indignant side, appalled at the mess being made of our planet. The story is full of offbeat humor, buffoonish yet charming supporting characters, and genuinely touching scenes of children enjoying the wildness of nature. He deserves a warm welcome into children’s publishing.”—Booklist

“A wonderful tour-de-force.”—The Boston Globe

“A rollicking, righteous story.”—The Miami Herald

“You don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy it.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Yes, it is a hoot.”—The Washington Post Book World


WINNER 2003 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2003 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award
WINNER 2003 Texas Lone Star Reading List
WINNER 2003 ALA Notable Children's Book
WINNER 2003 Newbery Honor Book
NOMINEE 2005 Arizona Young Readers Award
NOMINEE 2005 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
WINNER 2005 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
NOMINEE 2005 Iowa Teen Book Award
WINNER 2004 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
WINNER 2003 Maine Student Book Master List
FINALIST 2004 Massachusetts Children's Book Award
WINNER 2005 Minnesota Maud Heart Lovelace Award
WINNER 2003 Pennsylvania Keystone State Reading Association Book Award
WINNER 2006 Connecticut Nutmeg Children's Book Award
NOMINEE 2003 Florida Sunshine State Book Award
NOMINEE 2005 Hawaii Nene Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


In this humorous ecological mystery, three unlikely middle-school kids lead a protest to save endangered burrowing owls that live on the property where a Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House is about to be built.

Roy Eberhardt is accustomed to being the new kid in school, so when his father’s job moves the family to Coconut Cove, Florida, Roy enters Trace Middle School with the full knowledge of what it feels like to have no real friends. What he doesn’t expect is an immediate encounter with the school bully. Dana Matherson is everyone’s fear, but at the very moment he mashes Roy’s face against the school-bus window, Roy notices a barefoot boy running away from the school bus and across a field. His curiosity about the boy leads him to Beatrice, the boy’s stepsister, and Beatrice leads him to the burrowing owls that are about to become homeless because a Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House is about to be built on the land where the owls live. The three unlikely allies take on the construction guys, the corporate PR honchos, and the police—all for the sake of the owls.


Carl Hiaasen, a columnist for the Miami Herald, is the author of many bestselling novels for adults, including Sick Puppy and Basket Case. He says that he has been writing about Florida since he was six when his father gave him a typewriter. Hoot, a 2003 Newbery Honor Book, is Mr. Hiaasen’s first novel for young readers.



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency that declares a species endangered. It has classified the burrowing owl as a candidate species. Ask students to find out what this classification means. Then have them research the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Engage the class in a discussion about why it is important for the government to have laws that protect animals.

Questions for Group Discussion

—Roy never quite feels that he belongs anywhere. Coconut Cove is the tenth school that he has attended, and he doesn’t feel that he has a hometown. Discuss Roy’s attempt to belong at school. What finally makes him feel that he belongs in Florida? How is being labeled an outcast related to belonging? Discuss why Mullet Fingers and Beatrice might be considered outcasts. What other characters in the book display a need to belong? What can schools do to help new kids like Roy feel welcome?

Bullying—Ask the class to brainstorm behaviors that characterize a bully. What causes a person like Dana Matherson to become a bully? Discuss the difference between acting tough and bullying. Why is Roy upset when he gets the reputation of being a tough guy after he beats up Dana? Sometimes a person who is being bullied becomes a bully. How does Mullet Fingers’s mother bully him? How might people like Leroy Branitt consider Mullet Fingers and Beatrice bullies? Have the class discuss ways of dealing with school bullies.

Family—Ask students to discuss Roy’s relationship with his parents. Why is Roy so conscious of being an only child? How might his life be different if he had a sibling? Compare and contrast Dana’s and Mullet Fingers’s families. Discuss why Mullet Fingers is so willing to trust Beatrice, his stepsister. Why does she feel such a need to shield him from his mother? Discuss whether there is a correlation between Mullet Fingers’s family life and his desire to save the owls.

Values in Conflict—Mrs. Eberhardt tells Roy, “Honey, sometimes you’re going to be faced with situations where the line isn’t clear between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your heart will tell you to do one thing, and your brain will tell you to do something different.” (p. 160). Discuss places throughout the book when Roy’s heart tells him one thing, and his brain tells him something else. How do his heart and his brain come together at the end of the novel?

Friendship—Roy’s mother worries that he doesn’t have friends, so she is delighted when Roy brings Beatrice home. Discuss the friendship that develops between Roy and Beatrice. What does each individual gain from the relationship? How does Mullet Fingers fit into the friendship? When
Roy gives Mullet Fingers his name so that he can get medical help, Mrs. Eberhardt says, “Your father and I don’t want to see you get in trouble. Even for the sake of a friend.” (p. 159) Discuss whether Roy’s decision to help Mullet Fingers is for the sake of friendship.


Language Arts
—Ask students to write a front-page article for the Coconut Cove newspaper about the demonstration to save the owls. They should include interviews with Roy and Leroy Branitt, the supervising engineer of Mother Paula’s.

Miss Hennepin, the vice-principal of Trace Middle School, instructs Roy to write a sincere letter of apology to Dana Matherson for busting his nose. Read the letter that Roy writes and discuss whether the letter fits the “sincere” requirement made by Miss Hennepin. (p. 32) Then ask students to write a letter that might meet the vice-principal’s approval.

Social Studies—Officer Delinko says that pulling up the surveying stakes at Mother Paula’s isn’t vandalism, but is considered “trespassing and malicious mischief.” (p. 7) Have students find out local laws regarding trespassing. Invite a law enforcement officer to speak to the class about how malicious mischief leads to vandalism.

Math—The survey stakes are pulled up at the future site of Mother Paula’s All American Pancake House. Ask students to call several surveying companies and find out an estimated cost for surveying the property lines of three acres of land. The policeman says that you can’t charge vandalism without monetary damage. Calculate the monetary damage to Mother Paula’s, since the land must be surveyed again.

Career Exploration—Roy doesn’t exactly know what his father does for a living, but he knows he works for the government in some type of law enforcement. Brainstorm a list of careers related to law enforcement, and find out the training, salaries, and job descriptions for these positions. Then ask the class to decide what they think Roy’s father does.

Drama—In a telephone conversation, Chuck Muckle, the vice president for corporate relations for Mother Paula’s, chews out Leroy Branitt, the supervising engineer charged with guarding the property. Why is Mr. Muckle so angry with Leroy Branitt? Ask students to dramatize the conversation between the two men.

Science—Ask students to read about Florida’s burrowing owl and other endangered animals in the area. (See the Internet Resources section.)
Each student should write a descriptive paragraph about the burrowing owl and another endangered animal to include in a book called Florida’s Endangered Wildlife.

Roy gains a greater appreciation of wildlife when
the Eberhardts’ take a Sunday afternoon boat trip through the Everglades. Ask the class to study the Everglades’ ecosystem (www.nps.gov/ever/eco). Divide the class into groups and ask each group to select one of the endangered species in the Everglades National Park and to plan a campaign for saving the species. This may include posters, pamphlets, letters, etc.

Visual Arts—Roy and some of his friends stage a Save the Owls protest at the Mother Paula’s construction site on the day of the groundbreaking ceremony. Ask students to create posters that visually interpret the following slogans used by the protesters:



Ask students to find unfamiliar words and try to define them from the context of the story. Such words may include: ambushed (p. 1), monetary (p. 5), kiosk (p. 69), incentive (p. 85), alternative (p. 95), stupendous (p. 98), elude (p. 99), devastated (p. 100), vaporize (p. 110), subterranean (p. 130), carnage (p. 145), reconnaissance (p. 174), malevolently (p. 184), and patronizing (p. 185)


A 2003 Newbery Honor Book
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults



Wildlife Viewing
This site discusses the burrowing owl that lives in Florida.

Kids’ Planet
This site provides a fact sheet on the burrowing owl.

This site focuses on dealing with bullies.

Carl Hiaasen’s Official Web Site
Includes Frequently Asked Questions about Hoot.


Belle Prater’s Boy
Ruth White
Belonging • Family • Friendship
Grades 4-7 / 0-440-41372-9
Dell Yearling

Joshua T. Bates Takes Charge
Susan Shreve
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen
Belonging • Bullying • Friendship
Grades 3-7 / 0-679-87039-3
Dell Yearling

Don’t Pat the Wombat!
Elizabeth Honey
Friendship • Humor • Bullying
Grades 4-7 / 0-440-41652-3
GLB: 0-375-90578-2
Dell Yearling / Alfred A. Knopf

Following Fake Man
Barbara Ware Holmes
Friendship • Humor • Mystery and Suspense
Grades 4-7 / 0-440-41855-0
HC: 0-375-81266-0
GLB: 0-375-91266-5
Dell Yearling / Alfred A. Knopf


Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Libra ry Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.

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