Booklist (October 15, 2002 (Vol. 99, No. 4))
Gr. 5-8. 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. When Roy teams up with some classic children’s lit outsiders to save the home of some tiny burrowing owls, the stage is set for a confrontation between right-thinking kids and slow-witted, wrongheaded civic boosters. But Hiaasen never lets the formula get in his way; 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.
Horn Book (November/December, 2002)
Hoot is quintessential Hiaasen-a mystery/adventure set in South Florida, peopled with original and wacky characters-with a G rating. Roy Eberhart, the new kid in town, hooks up with teenage runaway Mullet Fingers (so named because he can catch fish with his bare hands) and his sister Beatrice, a “major soccer jock…with a major attitude.” The three discover that the proposed site for a Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House is also a nesting ground for small burrowing owls, a protected species, and they attempt to halt construction. Initiating a cover-up that reaches all the way to the mayor’s office, Mother Paula’s executives ignore the owls and try to speed up groundbreaking ceremonies before the public learns their secret. But Mullet Fingers sabotages their efforts: he removes survey stakes; puts alligators in the portable toilets; and releases a mess of cottonmouth snakes to scare away the guard dogs. The narrative carries a lot of frenzied commotion that only becomes more preposterous with each new character’s entrance. There’s Garrett, “king of phony farts” at middle school; Officer Delinko, not “the sharp-est knife in the drawer”; and Kalo, the amiable rottweiler trainer (“That vun dere is Max. That vun, Klaus. That vun, Karl. And that big vun is Pookie Face”). Each individual has a story to tell, sometimes advancing the plot (Officer Delinko’s ambitious investigation provides believable access to all characters) and sometimes imposing an earnestness at odds with the humor (Beatrice and Mullet Fingers endure a dismal home situation). Not consistently a hoot, but worthy of a holler, Hiaasen’s first YA book succeeds as a humorous diversion.
Horn Book starred (Spring, 2003)
This is a G-rated mystery/adventure set in South Florida, peopled with original, wacky characters. New kid Roy hooks up with a teenage runaway and his sister to protect the nesting ground for burrowing owls, threatened by construction. The narrative carries a lot of frenzied commotion that becomes more preposterous with each new character. Not consistently a hoot, but worthy of a holler, Hiaasen’s first YA book is a humorous diversion.
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2002)
The straight-arrow son of a maybe-federal agent (he’s not quite sure) turns eco-terrorist in this first offering for kids from one of detective fiction’s funniest novelists. Fans of Hiaasen’s (Basket Case, 2001, etc.) novels for adults may wonder how well his profane and frequently kinky writing will adapt to a child’s audience; the answer is, remarkably well. Roy Eberhardt has recently arrived in Florida; accustomed to being the new kid after several family moves, he is more of an observer than a participant. When he observes a bare-footed boy running through the subdivisions of Coconut Grove, however, he finds himself compelled to follow and, later, to ally himself with the strange boy called Mullet Fingers. Meanwhile, the dimwitted but appealingly dogged Officer Delinko finds himself compelled to crack the case of the mysterious vandals at the construction site of a new Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House-it couldn’t have anything to do with those cute burrowing owls, could it? The plot doesn’t overwhelm with surprises; even the densest readers will soon suss out the connections between Mullet Fingers, the owls, and Mother Paula’s steadfast denial of the owls’ existence. The fun lies in Hiaasen’s trademark twisted characters, including Dana Matherson, the class bully who regularly beats up on Roy and whose unwitting help Roy wickedly enlists; Beatrice Leep, Mullet Fingers’s fiercely loyal sister and co-conspirator; Curly, Mother Paula’s hilariously inept foreman; and Roy’s equally straight-arrow parents, who encourage him to do the right thing without exactly telling him how. Roy is rather surprisingly engaging, given his utter and somewhat unnatural wholesomeness; it’s his kind of determined innocence that sees through the corruption and compromises of the adult world to understand what must be done to make things right. If the ending is somewhat predictable, it is also entirely satisfying-Hoot is, indeed, a hoot. (Fiction. 10-14)
Library Media Connection (March 2003)
Ray has lived in many places, and, as far as he is concerned, Montana is much better than Florida. Ray is also an expert on school bullies, and they are all pretty much alike. Thanks to a Florida bully, though, Ray finds a mystery and two new friends. Suddenly Florida doesn’t seem so bad after all. The mystery is a boy about Ray’s age who is running away from the school bus with no book bag. The boy is Napoleon, a.k.a. Mullet Fingers. He can’t get along with his family, so he lives on his own in a junkyard. His sister is Beatrice, star soccer player with an attitude problem. While Ray is trying to figure out who the mystery boy is, someone is doing everything possible to stop construction of a pancake house in town. Burrowing owls live on that piece of land, but no one seems to know or care. I was pleased to be able to read a book that has little violence, less profanity, and no sex. While most of the adults are presented as less than competent, none of them are really mean, except for the obvious villain. The children are typical middle school students, although the main characters are perhaps more mature than most middle schoolers. All in all, this is an enjoyable book. Recommended. David Lininger, Library Media Specialist, Hickory County R-1 Schools, Urbana, Missouri
Publishers Weekly (May 17, 2004)
“With a Florida setting and pro-environment, anti-development message, Hiaasen returns to familiar turf for his first novel for young readers,” wrote PW. “Several suspenseful scenes, along with dollops of humor, help make this quite a hoot indeed.” Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly (June 24, 2002)
With a Florida setting and proenvironment, antidevelopment message, Hiaasen (Sick Puppy) returns to familiar turf for his first novel for young readers. Characteristically quirky characters and comic twists will surely gain the author new fans, though their attention may wander during his narrative’s intermittently protracted focus on several adults, among them a policeman and the manager of a construction site for a new franchise of a pancake restaurant chain. Both men are on a quest to discover who is sabotaging the site at night, including such pranks as uprooting survey stakes, spray-painting the police cruiser’s windows while the officer sleeps within and filling the portable potties with alligators. The story’s most intriguing character is the boy behind the mischief, a runaway on a mission to protect the miniature owls that live in burrows underneath the site. Roy, who has recently moved to Florida from Montana, befriends the homeless boy (nicknamed Mullet Fingers) and takes up his cause, as does the runaway’s stepsister. Though readers will have few doubts about the success of the kids’ campaign, several suspenseful scenes build to the denouement involving the sitcom-like unraveling of a muckity-muck at the pancake house. These, along with dollops of humor, help make the novel quite a hoot indeed. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal (March 1, 2012)
Gr 5-8-At his Florida middle school, newcomer Roy Eberhardt must outwit his nemesis, the class bully. Outside school, Roy investigates the activities of a mysterious boy determined to halt construction of a restaurant above burrowing owls’ nests. Plotlines converge as Roy’s involvement to stop the construction deepens. Hiaasen infuses his eco-fiction with humor. Audio version available from Listening Library. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.