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 backyard. 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)
Length: 6 hours and 13 minutes
Narrator(s): James Van Der Beek
Buy the Book: Chomp