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by Carl Hiaasen (304 pages)

Author: Carl Hiaasen
Publication date: Tuesday September 10, 2002

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Book Review
This Newbery Honor-winning, hilarious Floridian adventure involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, pint-sized owls, and more. A New York Times bestseller!
Everybody loves Mother Paula’s pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls’ fate cemented in pancake batter?
“A wonderful tour de-force.” —The Boston Globe
“A rollicking, righteous story.” —The Miami Herald
“Yes, it is a hoot.”—The Washington Post
From the Hardcover edition.

Amazon.com Review

Roy Eberhardt is the new kid--again. This time around it's Trace Middle School in humid Coconut Grove, Florida. But it's still the same old routine: table by himself at lunch, no real friends, and thick-headed bullies like Dana Matherson pushing him around. But if it wasn't for Dana Matherson mashing his face against the school bus window that one day, he might never have seen the tow-headed running boy. And if he had never seen the running boy, he might never have met tall, tough, bully-beating Beatrice. And if he had never met Beatrice, he might never have discovered the burrowing owls living in the lot on the corner of East Oriole Avenue. And if he had never discovered the owls, he probably would have missed out on the adventure of a lifetime. Apparently, bullies do serve a greater purpose in the scope of the universe. Because if it wasn't for Dana Matherson...

In his first novel for a younger audience, Carl Hiaasen (Basket Case, etc.) plunges readers right into the middle of an ecological mystery, made up of endangered miniature owls, the Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House scheduled to be built over their burrows, and the owls' unlikely allies--three middle school kids determined to beat the screwed-up adult system. Hiaasen's tongue is firmly in cheek as he successfully cuts his slapstick sense of humor down to kid-size. Sure to be a hoot, er, hit with middle school mystery fans. (Ages 10 to 15) --Jennifer Hubert

Product Description

This Newbery Honor-winning, hilarious Floridian adventure involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, pint-sized owls, and more. A New York Times bestseller!
Everybody loves Mother Paula’s pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls’ fate cemented in pancake batter?
“A wonderful tour de-force.” —The Boston Globe
“A rollicking, righteous story.” —The Miami Herald
“Yes, it is a hoot.”—The Washington PostHoot ebook free

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From the Hardcover edition.

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This is a work of fiction. All names and characters are either invented or used fictitiously. The owls, however, are quite real.
Copyright © 2002 by Carl Hiaasen
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of
Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.
knopf, borzoi books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hiaasen, Carl.
Hoot / by Carl Hiaasen.
p. cm.
Summary: Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.
[1. Burrowing owl—Fiction. 2. Owls—Fiction. 3. Environmental protection—Fiction. 4. Florida—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.H52 Ho 2002
[Fic]—dc21 2002025478
September 2002
eISBN: 978-0-375-89027-7
Title Page
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
About the Author
For Carly, Ben, Samantha, Hannah,
and, of course, Ryan
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 nut-brown 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 estim
ate 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.”
Officer Delinko took off his cap and scratched his head. “Let me think on this,” he said.
Walking back toward the patrol car, the policeman stumbled and fell down. Curly grabbed him under one arm and hoisted him to his feet. Both men were mildly embarrassed.
“Stupid owls,” said Curly.
The policeman brushed the dirt and grass burs off his uniform. “You say owls?”
Curly gestured at a hole in the ground. It was as big around as one of Mother Paula’s famous buttermilk flapjacks. A mound of loose white sand was visible at the entrance.
“That’s what you tripped over,” Curly informed Officer Delinko.
“An owl lives down there?” The policeman bent over and studied the hole. “How big are they?”
“ ’Bout as tall as a beer can.”
“No kidding?” said Officer Delinko.
“But I ain’t never seen one, officially speakin’.”
Back at the patrol car, the patrolman took out his clipboard and started writing the report. It turned out that Curly’s real name was Leroy Branitt, and he was the “supervising engineer” of the construction project. He scowled when he saw the policeman write down “foreman” instead.
Officer Delinko explained to Curly the problem with filing the complaint as a vandalism. “My sergeant’s going to kick it back down to me because, technically, nothing really got vandalized. Some kids came on the property and pulled a bunch of sticks out of the ground.”
“How do you know it was kids?” Curly muttered.
“Well, who else would it be?”
“What about them fillin’ up the holes and throwin’ the stakes, just to make us lay out the whole site all over again. What about that?”
It puzzled the policeman, too. Kids usually didn’t go to that kind of trouble when pulling a prank.
“Do you have any particular suspects?”
Curly admitted he didn’t. “But, okay, say it was kids. That means it’s not a crime?”
“Of course it’s a crime,” Officer Delinko replied. “I’m saying it’s not technically vandalism. It’s trespassing and malicious mischief.”
“That’ll do,” Curly said with a shrug. “Long as I can get a copy of your report for the insurance company. Least we’ll be covered for lost time and expenses.”
Officer Delinko gave Curly a card with the address of the police department’s administration office and the name of the clerk in charge of filing the incident reports. Curly tucked the card into the breast pocket of his foreman shirt.
The policeman put on his sunglasses and slid into his patrol car, which was as hot as a brick oven. He quickly turned on the ignition and cranked the air conditioner up full blast. As he buckled his seat belt, he said, “Mr. Branitt, there’s one more thing I wanted to ask. I’m just curious.”
“Fire away,” said Curly, wiping his brow with a yellow bandanna.
“It’s about those owls.”
“What’s gonna happen to them?” Officer Delinko asked. “Once you start bulldozing, I mean.”
Curly the foreman chuckled. He thought the policeman must be kidding.
“What owls?” he said.
All day long Roy couldn’t stop thinking about the strange running boy. Between classes he scanned the faces in the hallways on the chance that the boy had come to school late. Maybe he’d been hurrying home, Roy thought, to change clothes and put on some shoes.
But Roy didn’t see any kids who resembled the one who had jumped over the big pointy-eared dog. Maybe he’s still running, Roy thought as he ate lunch. Florida was made for running; Roy had never seen anyplace so flat. Back in Montana you had steep craggy mountains that rose ten thousand feet into the clouds. Here the only hills were man-made highway bridges—smooth, gentle slopes of concrete.
Then Roy remembered the heat and the humidity, which on some days seemed to suck the very meat out of his lungs. A long run in the Florida sun would be torture, he thought. A kid would have to be tough as nails to make a routine of that.
A boy named Garrett sat down across from Roy. Roy nodded hi and Garrett nodded hi, and then both of them went back to eating the gooey macaroni on their lunch trays. Being the new kid, Roy always sat alone, at the end of the table, whenever he was in the cafeteria. Roy was an old pro at being the new kid; Trace Middle was the sixth school he had attended since he’d started going to school. Coconut Cove was the tenth town his family had lived in since Roy could remember.
Roy’s father worked for the government. His mother said they moved so often because Roy’s father was very good at his job (whatever that was) and frequently got promoted. Apparently that’s how the government rewarded good work, by transferring you from one place to another.
“Hey,” said Garrett. “You got a skateboard?”
“No, but I’ve got a snowboard.”
Garrett hooted. “What for?”
“Where I used to live it snowed a lot,” Roy said.
“You should learn to skateboard. It’s awesome, man.”
“Oh, I know how to skateboard. I just don’t have one.”
“Then you should get one,” Garrett said. “Me and my friends, we do the major malls. You should come.”
“That’d be cool.” Roy tried to sound enthusiastic. He didn’t like shopping malls, but he appreciated that Garrett was trying to be friendly.
Garrett was a D student, but he was popular in school because he goofed around in class and made farting noises whenever a teacher called him out. Garrett was the king of phony farts at Trace Middle. His most famous trick was farting out the first line of the Pledge of Allegiance during homeroom.
Ironically, Garrett’s mother was a guidance counselor at Trace Middle. Roy figured she used up her guiding skills every day at school and was too worn out to deal with Garrett when she got home.
“Yeah, we skate hard until the security guards run us off,” Garrett was saying, “and then we do the parking lots until we get chased out of there, too. It’s a blast.”
“Sweet,” Roy said, though cruising a mall seemed like a pretty dull way to spend a Saturday morning. He was looking forward to his first airboat ride in the Everglades. His dad had promised to take him, one of these weekends.
“Are there any other schools around here?” Roy asked Garrett.
“Why? You sick of this one already?” Garrett cackled and plunged a spoon into a lump of clammy apple crisp.
“No way. The reason I asked, I saw this weird kid today at one of the bus stops. Except he didn’t get on the bus, and he’s not here at school,” Roy said, “so I figured he must not go to Trace.”
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t go to Trace,” Garrett said. “There’s a Catholic school up in Fort Myers, but that’s a long ways off. Was he wearing a uniform, this kid? Because the nuns make everybody wear uniforms.”
“No, he definitely wasn’t in a uniform.”
“You’re sure he was in middle school? Maybe he goes to Graham,” Garrett suggested. Graham was the public high school nearest to Coconut Cove.
Roy said, “He didn’
t look big enough for high school.”
“Maybe he was a midget.” Garrett grinned and made a farty noise with one of his cheeks.
“I don’t think so,” said Roy.
“You said he was weird.”
“He wasn’t wearing any shoes,” Roy said, “and he was running like crazy.”
“Maybe somebody was after him. Did he look scared?”
“Not really.”
Garrett nodded. “High school kid. Betcha five bucks.”
To Roy, that still didn’t make sense. Classes at Graham High started fifty-five minutes earlier than the classes at Trace; the high school kids were off the streets long before the middle school buses finished their routes.
“So he was skippin’ class. Kids skip all the time,” Garrett said. “You want your dessert?”
Roy pushed his tray across the table. “You ever skip school?”
“Uh, yeah,” Garrett said sarcastically. “Buncha times.”
“You ever skip alone?”
Garrett thought for a moment. “No. It’s always me and my friends.”
“See. That’s what I mean.”
“So maybe the kid’s just a psycho. Who cares?”
“Or an outlaw,” said Roy.
Garrett looked skeptical. “An outlaw? You mean like Jesse James?”
“No, not exactly,” Roy said, though there had been something wild in that kid’s eyes.
Garrett laughed again. “An outlaw—that’s rich, Eberhardt. You got a seriously whacked imagination.”
“Yeah,” said Roy, but already he was thinking about a plan. He was determined to find the running boy.
The next morning, Roy traded seats on the school bus to be closer to the front door. When the bus turned onto the street where he had seen the running boy, Roy slipped his backpack over his shoulders and scouted out the window, waiting. Seven rows back, Dana Matherson was tormenting a sixth grader named Louis. Louis was from Haiti and Dana was merciless.
As the bus came to a stop at the intersection, Roy poked his head out the window and checked up and down the street. Nobody was running. Seven kids boarded the bus, but the strange shoeless boy was not among them.