05 September 2013


by Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf

I've loved Carl Hiaasen since I read the very first page of Skinny Dip (read it, you'll agree).  I love his sarcastic wit and well-woven plot lines.  When I became a teacher librarian and found out he also writes books for young readers, I was excited and nervous.  Not many writers can write well for multiple ages (case in point: LOVE James Patterson books for young readers, can't stomach his adult novels).  However, Hiaasen nails it.

Chop stars two fantastic young people: Wahoo and and Tuna.  The only two kids on the planet named for fish (granted, Wahoo isn't named for the fish - he's named for a professional wrestler).  Wahoo's dad is a wild animal wrangler.  Tuna's dad is...not so great.  When Wahoo's dad is hired to help out with a survival show Expedition Survival, Tuna decides to tag along, especially since the host of the show - the famous Derek Badger - is her personal hero.  Tuna quickly finds out that Derek Badger (who is referred to not-so-affectionately by Wahoo's dad as "Mr. Beaver") is not the survivalist he claims to be on the show.  And when Badger goes a little crazy and wants to start doing all his own stunts, things get messy quick.  Wahoo and his dad can't back out of the job - they need the money, and Tuna doesn't want to go home, so they're stuck trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

As always, Hiaasen's dry humor and plot twists turn the book from just another book to an absolute page turner.  And I appreciate the fact that the relationship between Wahoo and Tuna never turns romantic - it would have been too cliche.  Wahoo's love for his family and his animals, and his desire to help Tuna are genuine and completely age appropriate.  And Hiaasen's portrayal of adults is also age appropriate: they are flawed but not to the point of being disrespectful.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks Bear Gryls is a bit much.  Ok, seriously, I would recommend this book to any one who likes survival stories (both wilderness survival and tough-life-situation survival), any middle-grade student looking for a fun read, and any parent who wants a great book through which they can connect with their child.

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