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by Carl Hiaasen

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2002
292 pages
ISBN: 0-375-82181-3

Ages 11 - 15

Best-selling author for adults Carl Hiaasen has taken his distinctive, over-the-top portrayal of south Florida's petty criminal low-life to a new and younger audience. Other writers for adults have recently turned their hand to children's literature with varying degrees of success, but Mr. Hiassen strikes just the right tone in this story of middle-schoolers fighting big business to preserve a habitat for burrowing owls. The construction site for a new Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House appears to be just another vacant lot, but a renegade adolescent known as Mullet Fingers recognizes that the area harbors underground dens for burrowing owls, which will be destroyed by development. He single-handedly attempts to sabotage the site by pulling up survey stakes, putting alligators in the port-a-potties, and letting loose a posse of cottonmouth snakes (albeit with their mouths taped shut) to delay work. He's joined in his crusade by a recent newcomer to Florida, a lonely teenager named Roy, and Mullet Finger's no-nonsense, soccer-playing sister Beatrice. Together they conspire to protect the owls, both by creatively disrupting construction and by raising awareness of Mother Paula's under-handed attempt to bypass a required Environmental Impact Study. Although Mullet Finger's acts of vandalism are illegal, his intentions are undeniably sterling, and readers cannot help but cheer him on. The kids are clever, the dialogue is witty, and almost all of the adults (with the notable exception of Chuck Muckle, Mother Paula's sleazy company V.P.) turn out to have at least one redeeming quality. Chuck Muckle and a few minor local officials are unmasked as money-grubbing villains, and the owls are saved, in a humorous and satisfying conclusion. CCBC categories: Fiction For Children; Fiction For Young Adults; Issues In Today's World.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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