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Something Familiar: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Hola!

As you may know my husband and I moved from Florida to Columbia, South Carolina this past July. We’re loving the fact that we get to experience the change in seasons and that we’re really close to the mountains. It is just a great area to live in. It’s not that we didn’t like Florida, it’s just that it wasn’t the place we wanted to be forever.

Pretty shortly after we moved however, I realized that Chomp by Carl Hiaasen was on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list for the 2013-2014 school year. I was pretty excited to read Chomp because it, like all of Hiaasen’s books, takes place in southern Florida and in the midst of our move I needed to read something familiar.

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his bChomp by Carl Hiaasenackyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun.

Although I’ve always enjoyed the Hiaasen books that I have read, his books are not always my favorite. However, I think out of all of them Chomp might have been the one I liked the most. There was just so much more humor in this story and I stopped my husband to tell him about the story more than I usually do when reading. I especially loved the reality show idea and my husband and I are big fans of Bear Grylls and his survival shows, so I got a kick out of the Derek Badger character, who is obviously a mocking portrayal of Grylls and survival show hosts like him.

In Hiaasen’s books the setting is always a character in its own right. And although I’ve never been to the Everglades (even after living in Florida for around 15 years) I know enough about Florida wildlife and geography to completely understand and appreciate this setting. Hiaasen throws in so many Florida “inside jokes” or references that I absolutely felt like I was back in the Florida sunshine.

The main character, Wahoo and his friend (something more?!), Tuna, are really fun and lovable characters. These two are one of the main reasons why I enjoyed Chomp more than Hiaasen’s other books. Wahoo and Tuna were both so realistic and tender in their new-found friendship that you can’t help but fall for them both.

OMG! I almost forgot! Do you even know who narrates this audiobook!?  I freaked out when I pressed play for the first time and heard the voice I hadn’t heard in like 10 years…DAWSON LEERY! Yes. You read correctly. Chomp is narrated by James Van Der Beek! High School Tina swooned a little. For real.

Chomp, definitely comes recommended for middle grade readers considering jumping into Hiaasen’s books who enjoy survivalist stories with some humor thrown in. Although, I do enjoy Hiaasen’s books they are definitely written mostly for their middle grade audience and I think it would be a stretch for older readers (especially adults) to really get into.

Author: Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 27, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 6 hours and 13 minutes

Narrator(s): James Van Der Beek

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Chomp

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Right in My Own Backyard: Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

The third 2012-2013 Florida Sunshine State book I’ve read this summer (out of fifteen).

A science-class field trip to the Everglades is supposed to be fun, but Sarah’s new at Glades Academy, and her fellow freshmen Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorbyaren’t exactly making her feel welcome. When an opportunity for an unauthorized side trip on an air boat presents itself, it seems like a perfect escape—an afternoon without feeling like a sore thumb. But one simple oversight turns a joyride into a race for survival across the river of grass. Sarah will have to count on her instincts—and a guy she barely knows—if they have any hope of making it back alive.

This is my favorite of the three Sunshine State Books I’ve read so far this summer!  I think the title, Lost if the River of Grass is fabulously foreboding and terrifying.  This is an incredibly exciting survival tale that is that much more exciting to me because the Everglades are only a few hours south of where I live so it makes it that much more real (and scary!).  After reading this book I am reminded of how much I need to learn about survival skills!  I know some basics (thanks Bear Grylls!) but I don’t think I’d know enough to get myself out of The Everglades alive.

I like Sarah, the city girl main character, and can totally understand her behavior when faced with intense difficulties and fear.  The way she complained and argued with Andy made total sense to me, even if I found it annoying at times.  If I had been stuck out on the swamp (IT’S THE SWAMP, PEOPLE!) with no way of getting out but walking through it surrounded by snakes, mosquitoes, gators and God knows what else, I’d be pretty annoying too!

Rorby’s descriptions of the Everglades and the problems you’d face were spot on.  I felt like I was there trudging alongside Sarah and Andy the whole way.  I was so engrossed with this page turner the whole way through that I actually prayed multiple times that I’d never, ever get stuck in the Everglades!

There is a pretty cute romance between Sarah and Andy, the boy who offers to take Sarah on a boat ride that I think girls will like, but it isn’t a huge part of the story so I think boys will still find Lost in the River of Grass interesting, despite the romance. In the end I think this survival story will appeal to readers in the middle grades and up, although I believe it will have special appeal to those living in Florida.

Note: Just realized author Ginny Rorby grew up in Winter Park, Florida where I live! I knew she went to school in my county, but had no idea she was from Winter Park! Very cool!

Author: Ginny Rorby

Publisher:  Carolrhoda Books (February 9, 2011)

Format: Paperback

Length: 255 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Lost in the River of Grass