Roy Eberhardt has recently, and unhappily, arrived in Florida. "Disney World is an armpit," he states flatly, "compared to Montana."
Roy's family moves a lot, so he's used to the new-kid drill. Florida bullies are pretty much like bullies everywhere. But Roy finds himself oddly indebted to the hulking Dana Matherson. 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 the first interesting thing Roy's seen in Florida.
The boy was about Roy's age, but he was running away from the school bus. He had no books, no backpack, and, here's the odd part, no shoes.
Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy's trail. The chase will introduce him to some other intriguing Floridian creatures: potty-trained alligators, a beleaguered construction foreman, some burrowing owls, a fake-fart champion, a renegade eco-avenger, some slippery fish, a sinister pancake PR man, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparking tails.
Life in Florida is looking up.
Hoot is a 2003 Newbery Medal Honor Book.
Roy would not have noticed the strange boy if it weren't for Dana
Matherson, because Roy ordinarily didn't look out the window of the
school bus. He preferred to read comics and mystery books on the morning
ride to Trace Middle.
But on this day, a Monday (Roy would never forget), Dana Matherson
grabbed Roy's head from behind and pressed his thumbs into Roy's temple,
as if he were squeezing a soccer ball. The older kids were supposed to
stay in the back of the bus, but Dana had snuck up behind Roy's seat and
ambushed him. When Roy tried to wriggle free, Dana mushed his face
against the window.
It was then, squinting through the smudged glass, that Roy spotted the
strange boy running along the sidewalk. It appeared as if he was
hurrying to catch the school bus, which had stopped at a corner to pick
up more kids.
The boy was straw-blond and wiry, and his skin was nutbrown from the
sun. The expression on his face was intent and serious. He wore a faded
Miami Heat basketball jersey and dirty khaki shorts, and here was the
odd part: no shoes. The soles of his bare feet looked as black as
Trace Middle School didn't have the world's strictest dress code, but
Roy was pretty sure that some sort of footwear was required. The boy
might have been carrying sneakers in his backpack, if only he'd been
wearing a backpack. No shoes, no backpack, no books-strange, indeed, on
a school day.
Roy was sure that the barefoot boy would catch all kinds of grief from
Dana and the other big kids once he boarded the bus, but that didn't
Because the boy kept running-past the corner, past the line of students
waiting to get on the bus; past the bus itself. Roy wanted to shout,
"Hey, look at that guy!" but his mouth wasn't working so well.
Dana Matherson still had him from behind, pushing his face against the
As the bus pulled away from the intersection, Roy hoped to catch another
glimpse of the boy farther up the street. However, he had turned off the
sidewalk and was now cutting across a private yard-running very fast,
much faster than Roy could run and maybe even faster than Richard, Roy's
best friend back in Montana. Richard was so fast that he got to work out
with the high school track squad when he was only in seventh grade.
Dana Matherson was digging his fingernails into Roy's scalp, trying to
make him squeal, but Roy barely felt a thing. He was gripped with
curiosity as the running boy dashed through one neat green yard after
another, getting smaller in Roy's vision as he put a wider distance
between himself and the school bus.
Roy saw a big pointy-eared dog, probably a German shepherd, bound off
somebody's porch and go for the boy. Incredibly, the boy didn't change
his course. He vaulted over the dog, crashed through a cherry hedge, and
then disappeared from view.
"Whassamatter, cowgirl? Had enough?"
This was Dana, hissing in Roy's right ear. Being the new kid on the bus,
Roy didn't expect any help from the others. The "cowgirl"
remark was so lame, it wasn't worth getting mad about. Dana was a
well-known idiot, on top of which he outweighed Roy by at least fifty
pounds. Fighting back would have been a complete waste of energy.
"Had enough yet? We can't hear you, Tex." Dana's breath
smelled like stale cigarettes. Smoking and beating up smaller kids were
his two main hobbies.
"Yeah, okay," Roy said impatiently. "I've had
As soon as he was freed, Roy lowered the window and stuck out his head.
The strange boy was gone.
Who was he? What was he running from?
Roy wondered if any of the other kids on the bus had seen what he'd
seen. For a moment he wondered if he'd really seen it himself.
That same morning, a police officer named David Delinko was sent to the
future site of another Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House. It was
a vacant lot at the corner of East Oriole and Woodbury, on the eastern
edge of town.
Officer Delinko was met by a man in a dark blue pickup truck. The man,
who was as bald as a beach ball, introduced himself as Curly. Officer
Delinko thought the bald man must have a good sense of humor to go by
such a nickname, but he was wrong. Curly was cranky and unsmiling.
"You should see what they done," he said to the policeman.
"Follow me," the man called Curly said.
Officer Delinko got in step behind him. "The dispatcher said you
wanted to report some vandalism."
"That's right," Curly grunted over his shoulder.
The policeman couldn't see what there was to be vandalized on the
property, which was basically a few acres of scraggly weeds. Curly
stopped walking and pointed at a short piece of lumber on the ground. A
ribbon of bright pink plastic was tied to one end of the stick. The
other end was sharpened and caked with gray dirt.
Curly said, "They pulled 'em out."
"That's a survey stake?" asked Officer Delinko.
"Yep. They yanked 'em out of the ground, every damn one.
"Probably just kids."
"And then they threw'em every which way," Curly said, waving a
beefy arm, "and then they filled in the holes."
"That's a little weird," the policeman remarked. "When
did this happen?"
"Last night or early this morning," Curly said. "Maybe it
don't look like a big deal, but it's gonna take a while to get the site
marked out again. Meantime, we can't start clearin' or gradin' or
nuthin'. We got backhoes and dozers already leased, and now they gotta
sit. I know it don't look like the crime of the century, but
"I understand," said Officer Delinko. "What's your
estimate of the monetary damage?"
"Yes. So I can put it in my report." The policeman picked up
the survey stake and examined it. "It's not really broken, is
"Were any of them destroyed?" asked Officer Delinko. "How
much does one of these things cost-a buck or two?"
The man called Curly was losing his patience. "They didn't break
none of the stakes," he said gruffly.
"Not even one?" The policeman frowned. He was trying to figure
out what to put in his report. You can't have vandalism without monetary
damages, and if nothing on the property was broken or defaced....
"What I'm tryin' to explain," Curly said irritably, "it's
not that they messed up the survey stakes, it's them screwing up our
whole construction schedule. That's where it'll cost some serious
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from "Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen. Copyright © 2005 by Carl Hiaasen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.