"Chomp" should get five stars for the nifty cover design alone, but the witty and unflagging intelligence of the content certainly cements the rating. Social commentator and satirist Hiaasen takes aim at one of his favorite general categories of offender in this book--the Phony; in this case, an over-the-hill TV nature "explorer" with a penchant for making grisly meals of his animal costars. Much of the action is set in the Florida Everglades, where the self-named Derek Badger has come to shoot a survival flick that pits him against the local fauna. In most cases, Badger's fauna opponents are tame and rented, but this time around the big man (aiming for a major raise in his contract salary) insists on real wild animals in order to boost the action and excitement. In true Hiaasen fashion, things go downhill for the poser pretty quickly after that.
The book has a full contingent of wonderful characters, with two high school age kids fronting as the main protagonists. The adults on board are a mix of principled and venal, but nothing as crazy wild as is the norm for some of Hiaasen's adult books. In many ways, the animal characters are the biggest stars and will certainly be a big hit with the young readers of the book. The cast includes a monster alligator (Alice), a humongous python (Beulah), a wild bat and a wild water snake. The basic message to the readers is even these fearsome creatures are not so dangerous if left alone and observed from a respectful distance.
The author gives his story line enough edge to keep it interesting and moving along at a good pace, but no one suffers the kind of torments and painful death that is often on offer for villains in the adult books. Respect for animals, the absolute unacceptability of child abuse (and what to do about it) and the inside story of documentary film making are all themes explored in this great book for tweeners and above.
The next time I tune into a PBS nature film starring a spray-tanned, grinning host who is never out of the frame for more than 10 seconds, I will be thinking of "Chomp" and Hiassen's hilarious sendup of the genre. Hightly recommended.
on 6 May 2012
I believe this book will have very wide appeal. It is silly in a crazy-fun way and had me laughing out loud (which isn't great on the bus ...). It also doesn't have any elements which are unsuitable for the tween crowd, whilst also being likely to amuse teens as well. At the same time, it is thought-provoking about more serious themes including environmentalism and media responsibility.
Wahoo is a great character, and the story is mostly focused on him and his interactions with the world. Responsible and cautious, he takes care of his father who is not really functioning after having had a frozen iguana fall on his head. This is one of those stories where the grown ups can be less sensible and more problematic than the kids, and chaos naturally ensues.
The writing is drily witty, achieving hilarity without overdoing the silliness (I write as one who didn't enjoy Mr Gum - please no hate mail). Catastrophes are piled up with no regard to the bounds of realism, but the writing is strong enough that it really doesn't matter. Although several situations in the book are patently unlikely, I remained completely lost in its world, simply enjoying the ride.
Having been cheered up enormously losing myself in Wahoo and co's misadventures, I would urge you to read this. Boys and girls, kids and grown ups: there's definitely something for everyone to enjoy here.
Carl Hiaasen has been writing about the Florida swamps for a good few years now, both for adults and, more recently, for children. Chomp is the latest of these, centred around Wahoo, the fish-named son of an animal wrangler, his father Mickey, and a runaway girl called Tuna, as well as the people they encounter while trying to assist a TV reality show. The Chomp of the title refers to Alice, the largest and laziest alligator in captivity, although Alice is only very briefly present in the story.
As always in Hiaasen's books, there is a strong eco-friendly theme, to the point of absurdity. The eco-warriors are blameless fanatics, and anyone who disagrees with them is evil. The action is surreal, and participants blunder from disaster to disaster, to humorous effect. The caricature of the "survivalist" host of the TV show is especially cruel, no doubt deservedly so, and specifically references both Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls.
As always, we are drawn in to sympathise with the main players, and Hiaasen maintains a consistent pace throughout. Above all, Chomp is fun! In common with his other children's books, there are strong educational, ecological and moral messages on every page - in an amusing contrast to his adult novels.
on 18 March 2012
One of my favourite writers in any genre is Florida's own guardian of the Everglades, master satirist, Carl Hiaasen. I've read all of his adult novels (please see my Amazon review of his latest - `Star Island'*) but while I confess to owning the three previous books he's written for children, `Hoot', `Flush' and `Scat', I've not actual READ any of them. However, this is for no other reason than I am an adult, and have a huge backlog of grown-up books to read!. But, given the option of acquiring an advanced reading copy of `Chomp' through the Vine programme, I decided to try it out.
Before reading this, my first thought was 'bet he pushes his concerns for Florida's eco-system in his kids' books too!' And guess what? I wasn't wrong!
His protagonist has a typically wacky Hiaasen name - Wahoo Cray - and his family have a zoo of sorts in their backyard. His father Mickey takes care of the alligators, snakes etc, but has been unable to work since a frozen iguana fell out of a tree, striking him on the head, causing a concussion. It's worth mentioning that this wild event is TYPICAL of Hiaasen's adult humour too!
His mother takes over the day-to-day work but due to the family's finances being in a mess she accepts a job abroad. Then, a reality TV show -`Expedition Survival' contacts Mickey, wishing to use some of his animals in the show. Requiring the cash and ignoring his pain, he takes them up on the offer. But Mickey hadn't bargained on the show's star - a total ego maniac named Derek Badger - going missing while on location in the Everglades... in the middle of a storm.
The book has its share of the usual nincompoops and bullies that populate the author's adult work, but obviously he tones down some of their more way out characteristics in `Chomp', because he's writing for a very different target audience. It also features its sympathetic characters like Wahoo himself and a young girl who's escaped from home called Tuna, who children can identify with. Throw in Carl's typically hilarious madcap action and you have a great book that will hopefully have readers of all ages chuckling.
As I mentioned earlier, a thread of environmental concern is woven through the narrative, but I must point out that the author's intention is to make children aware of his concerns - he isn't trying to indoctrinate them. And in any event, I believe that it is important to inform young adults about such issues, if we're to produce responsible and balanced grown-ups.
I can't help wishing he'd written another of his brilliant adult satires, but if you'd like your children to care about wildlife and the importance of protecting and respecting areas of land that are under threat, then `Chomp' is a good book to introduce them to.
* sorry for this blatant plug!
Wahoo and his dad are hired by a TV survival show to provide animals for the Florida Everglades episode. Except it turns out that the star is a little less skilled at the survival game than the show would have you believe, even when faced with the laziest alligator around. Things start to get complicated when they are joined by Tina, on the run from her violent father. Its a very readable book, with plenty of action, particularly for those keen on animals. There is plenty of comedy, as expectations about the survival star are put to the test, and it will make the reader think again about some of the popular survivalist programmes on TV.
I'd suggest this is generally more of a boy's book than girls, and suitable for older Key stage 2 (8+) and older, particularly those who enjoy animal survival style programmes. The book even mentions the late Steve Irwin, and Bear Grylls. My 12 year old son really enjoyed it, writing, " The way the story builds and ends in an explosive couple of minutes is spectacular. The world is insanely believable, and all the events feel real."
One aspect I found to be odd, was the way swear words in the book, only ever used by Wahoo's dad, were replaced by the word, "bleep". In the setting presented, this didn't seem very realistic.
This is a book worth reading. It's entertaining, and would probably make a good film or TV series itself.
I have read the majority of Carl Hiaasen's adult output and have found them to be well written, funny, and pointed stories, typically set in Florida. Most have an eco message, and nearly all have a good vs bad, corporate greed and the despoiling of the Everglages message.
As this is the first non adult book I have read from the Hiaasen stable, I approached it with some trepidation ... but had the perfect opportunity to wiz through it on a weeks holiday. I needn't have worried ... Hiaasen is a consummate word smith and good story teller, and that shines through in this 260 page turner of a book.
The language and violence that are present in the adult books are toned down, and the central characters ... Wahoo and Tuna (yes really) are teenagers and the world is seen though their eyes.
WIthout spoiling the plot, Wahoo and his Father (an injured animal wrangler) live in Florida surrounded by a mini zoo inhabited by snakes, raccoons and Alice the Alligator. Due to financial difficulties they take on a job wrangling wildlife for a faux TV wildlife expert whose ego is bigger than his experience. Think Steve Erwin, Bear Grylls mixed with a touch of Russell Grant.
Needless to say, there are many misadventures along the way, spiced by the usual cast of Hiaasen odd-ball characters.
A good quick holiday read.
This is a really modern type of Boys Own Adventure story set in the Florida Swamps. I don't know for sure if it would appeal to girls, but it would be worth a try as it is a very good story.
The author Carl Hiaasen writes books for both children and adults. He was born and raised in Florida so the Everglades setting to the story is very authentic.
Here we have a boy called Wahoo, (named after a professional wrestler), whose father is Mickey Cray an animal wrangler -which just means handler, I didn't know and had to look that up-.
Mickey has a most bizarre collection of animals, my own favourite was Alice the alligator. She is a massive three metre gator and is wanted to appear in the next Derek Badger TV series, who is the star in one of those wild life adventure programmes rather like our own Bear Grylls except that Derek Badger is mostly a fake. He is an arrogant man, who is self deluded about what he can actually do in real life and what is really clever photography and good editing.
There is a lot of humour in this story, which moves along at a good pace. The jokes are at the expense of the adults which will definitely appeal to children and young teens.
There is a lot of info on alligators and other creatures so this book will have a lot of appeal for anyone interested in this part of nature.
A rather fake TV-survavalist star wants to make a programme in the Everglades, Florida- he wants to be filmed wrestling with alligators, eating live snakes, and that kind of stuff. So the TV company hires an animal wrangler to help with these crazy wishes; and the wrangler has a son, who is the hero of this story. He has to cope with his dad, who is more into animals than into people; with the TV-'star', who is as stupid as... well, very stupid; with a girl from his class, who is being chased by her drunk father; and with the Everglades, which is a pretty dangerous environment. Read this book, and weep (with laughter).
Carl Hiaasen has written a whole series of books about Florida and how this USA state is being despoiled by the greedy and the stupid; now he writes about this in a book for children (from 10 years up, I'd say). Hiaasen writing for children is like normal Hiaasen, which means very funny and genuinely upset about the destruction of nature and the environment - but without brakes! He lays it on with a trowel, hams it up, and the characters are even larger-than-life than in his other books. Any kid who likes animals and watches TV-shows about them, will love this book. Brilliantly funny, and with a serious undertone; Hiaasen doesn't write down to kids, he writes over the top for kids.
Carl Hiaasen is true to form in his latest novel for young readers. As with any of his works of fiction, for both adults and children, 'Chomp' is set in Hiaasen's beloved Florida.
Wahoo Cray is the son of an animal wrangler - a handler of animals for TV, film productions etc - and has grown up around alligators, snakes and monkeys, to name a few. Wahoo's father, Mickey, is employed by a hit TV survival show with filming set to take place in the Everglades. Mickey, a formidable character, finds himself forced to work closely with the self-important star of the show, Derek Badger who thinks he is nature's greatest gift, and it is all Wahoo can do to keep his father from throwing Badger to the alligators!
And so begins an amusing and comedic relationship between the Crays and their contemporaries and the 'outsiders', namely those who don't understand and appreciate the ecological and natural beauty of the Everglades and want to use it for their own means.
This book is highly recommended for children and adults alike. It's got the usual Hiaasen ingredients (comic genius, irony and a way of making you side with the main characters no matter what) and if you've not read him before then 'Chomp' is a great introduction.
This book is an Everglades adventure centred around nature. Mickey Cray is an animal wrangler (he deals with animals). He gets a TV contract for a survival show hosted by Derek Badger, trouble is he is not fully recovered from concussion caused by an iguana that fell out of a tree (such a zany book) so his son Wahoo (I love the unusual names in this book like this and others such as Tuna Gordon and Raven Stark) has to help him.
They go to film in the Everglades where they see that Derek Badger is not the seasoned survivalist he is portrayed to be. In fact he hasn't got a clue about animals, nature, survival etc. and that leads to conflict with Mickey who absolutely loves nature, all good-natured and fun. Throw into the mix a drunken madman with a gun and the whole thing ends in an exciting manhunt.
This story is a fast-paced, zany adventure that I loved.