Carl Hiaasen

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Hoot Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Carl Hiaasen's Hoot. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Carl Hiaasen

Hiaasen grew up in a rural suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The oldest of four children, he began writing at age six when he received a typewriter for Christmas. Upon graduating high school, Hiaasen attended several Florida colleges, where he contributed humor columns to the schools’ newspapers while earning a degree in journalism. In 1976, after briefly working for TODAY in Cocoa, Florida, the Miami Herald hired him. He became an opinion columnist for the paper in 1985, a position he held until he retired in 2021. In the 1980s, Hiaasen began writing humorous crime thrillers, first in collaboration with a colleague and then on his own. Hoot, published in 2002, was his first novel for young adults and was named a Newbery Honor Book. Nearly all of his novels take place in Florida, where he still lives, and many have environmental themes.
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Historical Context of Hoot

The burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia, is Florida’s smallest owl, standing on average about nine inches tall. Though globally and federally the burrowing owl is either not listed on endangered species lists or is listed as “least concern” (that is, population levels are fine), the state of Florida has designated the owls as “imperiled.” As Roy and his friends discover in Hoot, this is primarily due to habitat loss—the owls live in flat, open grassy areas that are also often coveted spots for real estate development. And when humans live in close proximity to existing burrows, domesticated animals (and sometimes even people) threaten and harass the owls. Florida requires prospective developers to apply for permits and have site surveys done of prospective building sites, and they also require developers to follow the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This federal act, which was initially passed in 1918, prohibits killing, capturing, selling, and transporting protected bird species without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other Books Related to Hoot

Critics note that Hoot, Hiaasen’s first novel for young readers, shares many similarities with his satirical crime thrillers for adults, including Skinny Dip, Sick Puppy, and Strip Tease. All of Hiaasen’s novels take place in Florida, and like Hoot, many also tackle environmentalism and political corruption. Following Hoot, Hiaasen wrote several young adult novels that follow much the same format (Flush, Scat, Chomp, Skink – No Surrender, and Squirm), though none have achieved quite the success that Hoot did. Other novels for young readers that also tackle environmental themes include The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer, Washashore by Suzanne Goldsmith, and Flight or Fight by Diane Hayes. For adults and older readers, books as varied as Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, Kate Beaton’s graphic memoir Ducks, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun all explore the complex relationships between human development, the environment, and nature preservation or conservation efforts. Within the novel itself, Roy reads A Land Remembered, a 1984 historical fiction novel by Patrick D. Smith. It follows a family for about a century, through three generations, as the family braves the Florida wilderness.
Key Facts about Hoot
  • Full Title: Hoot
  • When Written: 2001
  • Where Written: Miami, Florida
  • When Published: 2002
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel; Mystery
  • Setting: Coconut Cove, Florida
  • Climax: The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Mother Paula’s location in Coconut Cove turns into an impromptu protest.
  • Antagonist: Chuck Muckle and the Mother Paula’s corporation; Lonna Leep; Dana Matherson
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Hoot

Audubon Society. Since its incorporation in 1905, the Audubon Society has advocated for birds’ protection, much as Roy and his friends do in Hoot. What began as a campaign to stop game hunting and so-called plume hunters (people who hunted and killed birds for their feathers, which were then put on ladies’ hats) eventually expanded to publishing books, producing television programs, and political activism. Today, the Audubon Society is even responsible for things like certifying whether beef has been grass-fed.