HootI’d heard about Hoot before I finally got around to reading it. I was under the impression that it was about protecting wildlife from development, but it turns out that’s mostly a subplot. This is primarily a book about bullying in many forms.

Roy is the new kid in town. He’s so used to being bullied that it hardly phases him—he just endures it and primarily sees it as a waste of his time. When he spots a kid running barefoot, he’s intrigued and tries to track him down. He learns the kid is vandalizing the construction site of the newest Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House because the site is the home of burrowing owls that will be killed if the construction goes ahead.

Most of the story is from Roy’s point of view, but we also see two other points of view so the reader is aware of all the sides of the story. Officer David Delinko is investigating the vandalism and his job is on the line if he doesn’t get it solved. Curly Branitt is the construction foreman, under huge pressure from Chuck E. Muckle, the “vice president of something-or-other” at Mother Paula’s, to get the construction back on schedule.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


The book opens with a bullying scene on a school bus—Roy, the narrator, is choked to the point where it leaves bruises. He’s surprisingly nonchalant about this, seeing it as a distraction.

Later the same bully is choking him again and Roy breaks his nose. Roy’s dad is almost proud, his mother is horrified, the principal holds neither boy accountable because they were both injured which is apparently punishment enough, and the bully’s mother thinks it’s hysterical that a smaller kid hurt her son. Then the bully’s mom wrestles quite aggressively with her son to get a note out of his hands.

There’s just tons of bullying, both emotional and physical—parent on child, parent on parent, child on child. Roy meets his friend Beatrice when she tries to beat him up. Curly Branitt is bullied by his boss into doing things that are shady at best. People in general are just awful to one another.


“Mullet Fingers”—the bare-footed mystery environmental vandal—is a homeless boy who is also Beatrice’s step-brother. He puts alligators in the port-a-potties, blacks the windows of a police car, sets snakes loose on the site, and uses other questionable but creative ways to delay construction. Eventually Roy and Beatrice both become part of his scheme. When Roy follows him to his hideout, Roy is sort of kidnapped and held hostage briefly.

Business vs. Environment

The book isn’t exactly anti-business, but it is strongly environmental and it certainly implies that many in business are less than ethical. It does suggest that they aren’t all evil, however. Mr. Muckle is a villain, but the others are redeemable once they realize what’s going on. Most people are looking forward to the pancake restaurant until they understand what it will do to the owls, at which point they are against it—at least in that location.


Once people see the cute little owls, they’re always won over. “Mullet Fingers” puts gators in the port-a-potties which can’t possibly be good for them, and puts sparkle glue on snakes. He explicitly says the animals aren’t harmed, but…I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like a nice thing to do.


The bully’s family is totally dysfunctional—the mom and son physically fight, and the father seems to be intimidated by them both. Beatrice’s family isn’t much better—the whole reason her step-brother ran away is because his mom kept sending him to military schools he didn’t want to go to. Now he lives on his own and Beatrice keeps his secret.

Roy’s family, on the other hand, is solid. They move around a lot, so they depend on one another to be the stability in each other’s lives. Roy calls his parents his best friends. He talks with them about all kinds of issues and gets their involvement in saving the owls.


There are some secrets kept—primarily the existence and location of Beatrice’s step-brother. This occasionally gets people in trouble, like when he gets sick and Roy uses his own insurance card to get him treated, and Roy’s parents are called to the hospital under the impression that their son is really sick. Overall, though, there are good reasons why these secrets are kept even when bad choices are made to keep them.


This book is interesting, although it certainly didn’t go where I expected it to. It bothered me that bullying is so commonplace that it doesn’t even disturb people—it’s just the way things are. The tactics of the kids were questionable at best, but I did appreciate that they were successful when they found a way to bring the community together. This is definitely a book that should be talked about—consider reading it with your kids or at least making a point of discussing bullying, ways to stand up to authority, etc. with your kids. It’s suitable about for ages 10 and up.


Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Published in 2005 by Yearling
Read on Kindle
Newbery Honor book


Speak Your Mind