The Book

"Hoot"

Roy Eberhardt is a kid who has reluctantly moved to Florida from mountainous Montana. He doesn't like Florida. It's hot, humid and flat, and its theme parks don't interest him at all. "Disney World is an armpit compared to Montana," Roy says.

But Roy is slowly drawn into the mystery surrounding Mullet Fingers, a secretive boy who loves Florida and hates what development is doing to its woods, creeks, glades and beaches. Until Roy comes along, Mullet Fingers has been single-handedly waging a battle against the building of a pancake house on a lot that is home to some nine-inch owls that live in holes dug by other animals. If their burrows are bulldozed over, they will die.

The campaign against the restaurant involves unusual characters with quirky names, including unlucky police officer David Delinko, a bald and bumbling guard named Curly and a soccer-playing, tire-biting girl named Beatrice Leep. The action is hoot-out-loud funny. Author Carl Hiaasen writes at the beginning of the book that nothing is real but the owls. But the book's themes about the beauty hidden in the most surprising places and the strengths hidden in the most surprising people are real -- and true.

-- Elizabeth Chang