Book Discussion Series: Hoot

***JUST SO YOU KNOW*** All of the posts in our book discussion series contain questions and reviews that could possibly reveal parts of the plot you may rather discover by reading the book. Proceed with caution!***

The Book Discussion Series enhances the reading experience by providing a list of interpretive questions compiled by librarians of the Cleveland Heights Universisty Heights Public Library.

Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site. Unfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and — here’s the odd part — wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails. Roy has most definitely arrived in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida.

Hoot won a Newbery Medal honor in 2003. Get your copy of Hoot from the library.

UPDATE!! A question of Roy’s mother’s name came in a comment to this post.  Roy’s mom’s name is Lizzy Eberhardt (see chapter eleven).

  • In the front of the book there is a disclaimer about the book being a work of fiction. Did you notice it when you were reading the book? Read it now. What do you think of it? Why did the author/publisher choose to write the statement like this?
  • Roy likes to read comics and mysteries when he’s on the school bus. Do you take the bus? What do you do when you’re on the bus?
  • Why is Roy so curious about the running boy? What is so unusual about him? Have you ever seen someone or something strange that captured your attention and made you so curious that you just had to figure out the mystery?
  • This novel switches from focusing on Roy to focusing on what is going on at the building site. How is this effective for telling this story (or is it?)?
  • Officer Delinko’s reaction when Curly points out the pulled up survey stakes is “Probably just kids.” What do you think of this statement? Why does he make this assumption? (Also read more on p. 6-7). He ends up being correct; it is kids (or rather, a kid), but is it “just” a kid? Explain. How (and why) does his opinion of what’s happening change throughout the book (ex. on p. 34 he says “it seems too organized to be kids”).
  • Why do you think Officer Delinko is so determined to figure out the mystery of what’s happening at the mother Paula’s site?
  • What do you think of the adult characters in this book? (Name some specifically, ex. Roy’s parents, Miss Hennepin, Officer Delinko, Curly, Dana’s mom, Beatrice and Mullet Fingers’ parents, Chuck Muckle, “Mother Paula,” etc.).
  • Why does Roy describe Florida as “an armpit”? What does he mean by this? Read Roy’s description of Montana compared to Florida (p. 17). Is what Roy thinks about Florida accurate?
  • What does it mean to feel like you belong somewhere? Does Roy feel like he belongs in Coconut Cove? Why or why not? What sorts of things does Roy do to attempt to belong? Is he successful? Why or why not? What does it mean to be an outcast? Who are some other outcasts in this book?
  • Have you ever moved or changed schools before? What was it like? Can you relate to Roy and his experience?
  • What are some behaviors that characterize a bully? What do you think causes a person to become a bully? What about Dana Matherson, why has he become a bully?

  • What’s the difference between being tough and being a bully?
  • Why is Roy upset when he gets the reputation of being a tough guy after he beats up Dana? Why doesn’t he want to be thought of at all? What does it mean that he just wants to blend in?
  • How would you describe Roy? (He calls himself “too proud for his own good” and he’s definitely curious . . . what else?) Is he someone that you would want to be friends with? Why or why not?
  • One of the ways Roy deals with bullies at school (like Dana and Beatrice) is to confront them directly (Dana: p. 14; Beatrice p. 44-5). Why does Roy beat up Dana (in the beginning, p. 3 Roy says that it would be a “complete waste of energy” to fight back)? What are some other ways that he could deal with them? Which of them is the “best” way? Why? Have you ever encountered bullies? How did you react? (look at Roy’s list of options p. 99-100 for some ideas)
  • As punishment for beating Dana up, the vice principal of the school asks that Roy write a sincere letter of apology to him. Read the letter (p. 32). Do you think it is sincere? Why or why not? Why did Roy write the letter that he did? What does his mother mean about the tone being too forceful? What sort of letter would you have written in that situation?
  • Why does Roy fantasize about being a cowboy and wanting to ride a bull? What does that desire tell you about his character? What sorts of things do you fantasize about being able to do?
  • What is Roy’s reaction to his first encounter with Mullet Fingers? Why does he react like this? (p. 57)
  • Roy is an only child and he is “very conscious” of this fact (p. 110-101). How might Roy’s life have been different had he had siblings? What are some of the other characters’ families like? How are they similar? How are they different? How is Mullet Fingers’s family unusual? Do you think that his family life has anything to do with his desire to save the owls?
  • Discuss the friendship that develops between Roy and Beatrice. What does each of them gain from the relationship? How does Mullet Fingers fit into the friendship?
  • When Roy gives Mullet Fingers his name so that he can get medical help, his mother says that she doesn’t want him to get in trouble, even for a friend. Do you think that it is worth it to get in trouble for the sake of a friend? Why or why not? Does Roy decide to help Mullet Fingers because of their friendship or for another reason?
  • Mullet Fingers tries to stop the construction of Mother Paula’s in many unusual ways. What ways does he use? Can you think of any other ways he might have tried to do this?
  • Roy’s mother says to him (on p. 160) “Honey, sometimes you’re going to be faced with situations where the line isn’t clear between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your heart will tell you to do one thing, and your brain will tell you to do something different. In the end, all that’s left is to look at both sides and go with your best judgment.” What does she mean by this? Can you find some examples in the book of times when Roy’s heart and brain give him conflicting advice? How does he decide what to do in these situations? Have you been faced with situations in your own life when this occurred? How did you deal with it?
  • Why does Mother Paula’s Pancakes “lose” the Environmental Impact Statement? What could they have done instead? What kind of opinion do you get of the pancake house from the way it is described in the book? Why do you think the author portrays it like this?
  • Why do you think so many kids (and adults, too) join in the protest at the end of the book? Do you think you’d join them?
  • Carl Hiaasen says of Florida, “a kid can still experience some astounding wilderness and decide for himself what’s worth fighting for.” What do you think is worth fighting for? What are some ways that you would be willing to fight for it?
  • Do you get a feel for what Florida is like by reading the book? Has anyone ever been to Florida? Does this book accurately describe it? If you haven’t been to Florida, does reading about it in Hoot make you want to go there?
  • Why is it important for the government to have laws that protect animals (ex. Endangered Species Act)?
  • This book is filled with humor. What were some parts that you thought were funny?
  • Which character(s) from the book are you most like? Which character are you least like?
  • What did you think about the cover of this book? Does it make you want to read the book? Why or why not?
  • Hoot has been given awards and honors. Why do you think that this book is an award winner? Would you give it an award or vote for giving it an award (one of the awards that it won was one voted on by kids like you)?