by Carl Hiaasen
In A Nutshell
The Crays are not your average family. Instead of Fluffy the house cat, they have Alice the twelve-foot crocodile and Beulah the Burmese python. We have heard about alligators in the Florida Everglades hanging out on golf courses and eating runaway Pomeranians, but in this book, Alice the alligator is basically a puppy on steroids with a grill full of glittering chompers. She is so tame, in fact, that it would take an awful lot of heckling to make her get feisty. Worry not, though—in Carl Hiaasen's Chomp, reality TV star Derek Badger is just the sort of nincompoop that can pester even the most patient of creatures.
Wahoo and his dad Mickey, an expert animal wrangler, are broke and need to take a job staging some intense survivalist scenes with Alice and Beulah for Derek's show. There is just one problem: Derek doesn't know a thing about wild animals and is only interested in looking as rugged and awesome on camera as possible (by hiring others to make him look that way); he even has a Crocodile Hunter-inspired fake accent. Mickey and Wahoo are nervous about what might happen while Derek attempts to wrestle with the animals on camera. If he really makes Alice angry, will she bite him… or worse?
You have probably already heard of Carl Hiaasen's other books—Hoot, Flush, and Scat (well somebody has some crazy cute book covers… )—since they have been making the rounds in elementary and middle schools throughout the country for years. Hoot won the Newbury Honor award and was made into a movie, and Chomp—whichis the next book in this collection of environmental adventures, published in 2012—is just as fun and exciting as its predecessor.
Hiaasen's eco-adventure stories are, at their core, about respecting and protecting wildlife. Wahoo and his dad are both good stewards (that's fancy for caretakers) of Florida's lost, injured, and unwanted wild animals. What is Derek? He is a menace to all things natural.
Why Should I Care?
Chomp is all about respecting animals and nature, and being a good steward of the earth (a.k.a. living a green life). It's also about the importance of being real and not faking your way through life, of living—if you will—kind of like animals, who are as real as you can get.
Think about it this way: If you are a frog, there is no benefit in acting like a crocodile and moseying up to your crocodile neighbor and saying, "Hey, I'm starving! Know any good places to get a bite around here?"
The same is true for humans: If we pretend to be something we are not, we can get eaten alive.
The reality TV star Derek Badger does not have an ounce of integrity. He is a proud poser (someone who acts like someone they are not) through and through. As long as he makes a lot of money and has a great big fan club that thinks he is the ultimate outdoorsman, he doesn't care about much else. And because he doesn't care about being good at what he does (as long as he looks good), he gets pretty beat up in the wilderness of the Everglades when he can't take care of himself.
Not that you are going out adventuring in the wilderness, but think about it—if you don't read Chomp for class but pretend that you did, and your teacher calls on you to tell the class about the book, you will probably get into some big trouble if you start to babbling on about alligators who eat cheese instead of frogs and secret jungle princesses. Get the picture?
Chomp gives our brains plenty to chew on.