Sunday, September 8, 2013

REVIEW: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

I'll admit, I was surprised at the bite in Carl Hiaasen's Chomp, probably because this is the first of his books I've ever read. (ducks barrage of paperbacks) Don't get me wrong: this book is hilarious, and will have your children chanting eee-ka-laro! and affecting Australian accents. They may also beg for eclairs. Amidst all the hijinks, though, Chomp deals with some serious issues, including adult responsibility foisted upon too-young shoulders, concern for animals and the environment around us, and child abuse. It's Hiaasen's use of humor that enables him to include such weighty subjects, but Chomp is far from preachy. In fact, Hiaasen never delves too deeply, instead leaving enough room for readers to ponder the topics as the story progresses.

The novel begins with Wahoo Cray accepting a job on behalf of his animal-wrangler father, who is laid up with lingering headaches from an iguana-inflicted concussion. Wahoo's plan is to work the job alongside his father, stepping in just enough to make it look like his dad, Mickey, is fit for wrangling. Add a buffoonish Hollywood "survivalist," an abused teenage girl, a terrified bat, a thunderstorm in the Florida Everglades, and try to keep up. Better yet, try to put the book down: Penelope kept reading ahead and Emma stayed up until eleven one night to finish it.

You can find an excellent free educator's guide here at the Random House site. There are also lesson plans available for purchase on the sites Teachers Pay Teachers and BookRags but I've only seen the previews so I cannot vouch for the quality of the full units.

I put on an episode of Man Against Wild so my daughters could get a better idea of the type of show Hiaasen mocks, but we could hardly hear the episode over our own laughter. We also did a little research about the Florida Everglades and watched some videos of airboats to get a feel for how they worked and sounded. Those things are loud!

The kids' verdict? All ten kids in the book club enjoyed Chomp tremendously, though Emma and her friend Jade* both felt it started slow, the pace picking up only when Derek Badger arrives in his motor coach. 

*a pseudonym 


  1. I've read all of Carl Hiaasen's MG books and this was a lot of fun, but not my favorite of his. He has a tendency here to go over the top, I think, and veer into stereotypes. Read HOOT. I think it's his best.

    Just found you from Shannon's links.

    1. Hi Joanne,

      An interesting point about stereotypes. I find stereotypes used often in humor, but it's definitely possible to tip the balance. Thanks for the suggestion of HOOT. My daughters are kind-of into owls, so that one should be an easy sell.

  2. My daughter (9-years-old) got HOOT from the Barnes and Noble summer reading program and loved it! She also read Chomp and I believe has started on Scat and Flush... but HOOT is still her favorite! I was surprised at a few of the things she was commenting on as she read Chomp, some seemingly more mature topics than her usual reading, but she has really really enjoyed this author.

    1. Two votes for HOOT. That's good to know. I do think CHOMP dealt with some fairly mature topics. Did you get a sense that Hiaasen's other MG books are equally weighty?