A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chomp, a funny, sarcastic novel from the author of Hoot, Flush, and Scat, is a perfect story for middle schoolers who are beginning to realize the world isn't perfect. Parents don't always act responsibly, and many other adults are downright unethical, but the kid characters are remarkably levelheaded. Chomp primarily pokes fun at reality TV, while throwing animals and upbeat adventure into the mix. But there is some violence: A main character's abusive alcoholic father gives her a black eye and causes her mom to leave the family, shoots two people, and holds several other hostage. Younger children will be uncomfortable with such a mean dad. There are also scenes of a young kid being bitten by a pet alligator and an adult biting a bat, but the bat escapes unhurt.
What's the story?
Wahoo Cray's father makes his living as an animal handler, but due to a freak accident, he isn't always able to work. Wahoo talks him into taking a job working on the reality TV show Expedition Survival! (a spoof of Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild), which is filming in the Florida Everglades. Although the star of the show, Derek Badger, turns out to be a fake, Wahoo pushes his father to stay with the show to earn enough money to save their house from foreclosure. To complicate matters, Wahoo's schoolmate Tuna joins them to escape her abusive father.
Is it any good?
Carl Hiassen has a witty writing style and a sarcastic tone that's both funny and revealing. He creates complex, offbeat characters using language that doesn't talk down to tweens. Like Hoot, Flush, and Scat, CHOMP is a pleasure to read, with enough zaniness and sarcastic humor to appeal to middle schoolers. The lampooning of reality TV is funny and sarcastic, and there's a nice twist on the Twilight series when Derek Badger is convinced that a bat bite has turned him into a vampire.
Hiaasen creates brave but realistic kid characters who manage to solve problems and help set things right. He also portrays some unsavory characters -- an abusive alcoholic father, greedy TV producers, and a fake TV star -- who, although they often behave unethically, have elements of good, making them realistic and likeable rather than just silly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Derek Badger, the star of Expedition Survival!, is nothing like he appears on the screen. Why are TV stars portrayed as larger than life? What's real and not real in reality shows?
What other choices did Wahoo have besides helping Tuna run away from her abusive father? Where could he have gone for help, and whom could he have talked to?
How can you can protect wildlife in your area? Are there animals that are threatened due to interactions with humans?
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