Study Guide

Hoot

By Carl Hiaasen

Hoot Introduction

We're pretty sure of two things.

  1. If we say, "Read this novel! It's about burrowing owls!" you'll probably politely nod and smile…and then walk away quickly, convinced that we were pushing some cutesy-wutesy Pat The Bunny type book on you.
  2. If we say, "Read this novel! It's about evil companies, crooked contractors, mysterious runaways, alligators in porta-potties, mistaken identity, and revenge schemes!" you'll probably break into a sprint toward your nearest library.

But here's the thing: they're the same book.

Hoot is a novel about crime-fighting…and burrowing owls. It's about the seedy side of Central Florida…and burrowing owls. The burrowing owls are the heart and soul of Hoot—hey, it's called Hoot for a reason—in the same way that BB-8 is the heart and soul of The Force Awakens.

Here's what goes down: Roy, the new guy in town, witnesses a mysterious kid running shoeless down the street of Coconut Cove, Florida. He decides to investigate…and he finds himself tied to a tree and threatened with poisonous snakes. But he still decides to investigate (whoa, that takes guts) and uncovers a corporate plot to bulldoze the nesting ground of a group of endangered burrowing owls.

What happens next is part detective story, part police procedural, part environmental love story, and all high-quality literary goodness.

So it's no surprise Hoot won a Newbery Honor award in 2003 (as well as a bunch of others, too). In fact, it was such a hit that it was also made into a movie in 2006. (Source)

With all the popularity of Hoot you would think that Carl Hiaasen was an ol' pro at YA lit. False. Hiaasen began as a journalist before moving onto writing hardboiled adult fiction. But then the native Floridian decided to write a book that his nieces, nephews, and stepson could enjoy. (Source)

He titled that novel Hoot—and the rest is YA history.

What is Hoot About and Why Should I Care?

Short answer: because burrowing owls are adorable creatures. Seriously. These guys look like what would happen if Totoro and Pidgey had a baby.

Longer answer: because you gotta stand up for endangered animals.

There are always going to be animals that are in need of a little help. And it's up to us bigger guys (a.k.a. humans) to come to their aid.

They may not always be as squee-producingly super-cute as a burrowing owl. In fact, many of the creatures that desperately need our attention right now are decidedly less than easy on the eyes. Townsend's Big-Eared bats look like what would happen if you stuck bunny ears on a ball of belly-button lint. The Mexican Blindcat looks like a strawberry Starburst that went through the dryer. And the Orangefoot Pimpleback Pearlymussel not only has the world's most disgusting name (Pimpleback? You guys couldn't come up with anything better than Pimpleback?) but also looks like…a clam.

But these guys are on the endangered species list, which means they're dying out. And their deaths will impact us in ways both big and small.

For an example of a big impact, take the humble honeybee, which is now on the endangered species list. While you might not be the biggest personal fan of the bee—they do have a nasty habit of, well, stinging you—you actually need them to live the way you do now.

Yes, you.

A world without bees would mean roughly half of the fruits and veggies you see in the supermarket disappearing. And when you live in a world with seven million people (a world where hunger on a massive scale is already a horrific problem) that means a loss of lives. (Source)

Hoot acts as a wake-up call: it's time to start coming to the aid of creatures of the world who can't speak for themselves. So the next time you're walking through nature, keep your ears out for a squeak, whistle, or hoot. Because it may just be a cry for help.

Hoot Resources

Websites

Some Real-Life Mullet Fingers
The gang over at Burrowing Owl Conservation Network are all about helping those puny little owls.

All About Carl
Burrow into the world of author Carl Hiaasen.

Movie or TV Productions

Hoot the Movie
The burrowing owls hit the big time.

Articles and Interviews

Once A Journalist, Always A Journalist
Find yourself keen on Carl Hiaasen's writing? Check out his opinion pieces over at The Miami Herald.

Video

Hoot Trailer
From the 2006 movie.

Burrowing Owls In The Wild
Yep, these owls are just as cute as Hiaasen describes.

Audio

Some Real Hootin'
Listen to the different sounds of burrowing owls.

Images

Carl Hiaasen
The man behind Hoot.

Hoot Book Cover
Even just with eyes and a beak, the burrowing owls are adorable.

Hoot Poster
Poster for the 2006 movie.

Introducing Athene Cunicularia
This is what an actual burrowing owl looks like.