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?
People say this never happens, but I swear this is true. I purchased Hoot by Carl Haissen by walking around the middle grade section of McNally Robinson Booksellers (in Winnipeg) and randomly selecting novels off the shelves. I judged books by their covers. I read the backs. I selected stories without recommendation by a trusted friend. I took a chance. I encourage you to try this. One, you might be surprised. Two, it feels bookishly naughty.
We, being myself and my 9-year-old foster son, enjoyed this story immensely. He was always disappointed when I said, “and that’s the end of that chapter,” as I closed the book (often way past bedtime!) A good sign for a recommended read, for sure.
Something quite uncommon in middle grade novels is writing from different points of view (POV). Hiaasen not only wrote from the the main character’s POV, (an, approximately, 12-year-old boy), but also from two adult characters — a police officer and a construction foreman. As an author and editor of middle grade and young adult fiction, I was struck by how well this worked. Normally, writing from the POV of an adult would not be recommended for this age group. I do love it when I come across a great example of breaking the “rules,” or let’s say, “bending the guidelines.” My son really enjoyed the distinct voice of each character. He even double-over laughing during one chapter where some dialogue was written with a German accent from one character, while another character had a swollen lip so talked with a lisp. What a hilarious challenge to read out loud!
Hoot also touches on an environmental issue. The story shows how kids can really make a difference, without encouraging the prank-pulling, but actually finding a legal way to solve the problem. I found this aspect of the story quiet inspiring – small acts can make big changes (and save lives.)
We will be seeking out more novels by Carl Haissen. As my son said, “He writes good books.”
This is an unsolicited review, I purchased this book from a local bookstore.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (May 11 2004)
- ISBN-13: 978-0375829161