‘Chomp’ by Carl Hiaasen brings another Florida masterpiece to life


Rating: 5 stars

‘Chomp’ by Carl Hiaasen is another tale of life in the swamps of Southern Florida, where the alligators and cottonmouth snakes roam.

As usual, the range of characters is astounding. There is Wahoo, the protagonist and the son of an “animal wrangler” whose thumb was chewed off by Alice, the alligator (it was totally his fault, he insists). His mother is fairly normal, but she is in China for most of the book working as a language teacher to make the money to pay off their past-due mortgage. His father is another great study in character traits — animal-loving, unique, down-to-earth, and as stubborn as they get.

Wahoo is smart (except for the incident with the thumb), and he takes a job where the payoff will be enough to cover the overdue mortgage payments. What he didn’t count on was a crazy leading man, Derek Badger, from the show “Expedition Survival!” who decides that he’s going to do all the stunts himself with real animals.

Wahoo also doesn’t plan on picking up a classmate with an abusive father. Her father follows them to bring back his runaway daugher, and he bring not only his booze, but his gun, with him.

What ensues is the kind of hilarity at which Hiaasen excels. Reminscent of his adult books, ‘Chomp’ is full of fun, thrills and laughs.

This is a book that would be a great read-aloud for students from fifth grade through eighth grade. There is plenty of room for practicing all the great reading strategies, from prediction to character study, from summarization to using imagery to picture scenes. It’s also a great study in the Everglades ecosystem and the wildlife that lives there.

Definitely visit his website for kids. Hiaasen is a champion of Florida’s natural environment and there are links to wildlife groups and environmental groups.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.