Carl Hiaasen grew up in Florida and is a Miami journalist who writes adult novels about Florida, so it's not surprising his first kids' book takes place there.
He told KidsPost in an e-mail: " 'Hoot' is set in a fictional place called Coconut Cove, which I imagine to be somewhere near the real city of Naples, on Florida's southwest coast. I chose that location because it's one of the few remaining areas in the state where you can still find the little burrowing owls that are featured in the book. . . . Sadly, where I grew up, in a town near Fort Lauderdale, the burrowing owls are long gone."
The nearby Florida Everglades represents the natural world that Hiaasen wants to preserve. The Everglades is actually a big river, 50 miles wide in places. Its nickname is the River of Grass because it's full of sawgrass (a flowering plant that is not really a grass, but has very sharp leaves). The Everglades, home to many interesting animals, is the only place in the world that alligators and crocodiles live together.
Many of the Everglades' animals, such as the Florida panther, are endangered. The Everglades itself also is endangered. It is only half its original size. For more information, check out www.nps.gov/ever/eco.