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Brightly’s Book Club for Kids: Hoot

by Dena McMurdie

Hoot book cover art and design credit: Isabel Warren-Lynch

Welcome to the latest installment of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids! This month’s book pick is a fast-paced environmental adventure with a strong protagonist. Roy is smart, adventurous, and a great problem-solver. He doesn’t back down from a challenge, whether it comes in the form of a middle school bully or corrupt corporations. When he learns about plans to build a restaurant on the nesting grounds of some protected owls, Roy sets out to stop the construction and save the owls’ home.

About the Book

Best For: Kids ages 10 and up.

You’ll Like It If You Like: Realistic fiction and motivating stories about kids who tackle issues they care about and stand up for what they believe in.

Major Themes: Caring for the environment, bullying, following your heart, and self-empowerment

What It’s About: Roy recently moved from the mountains of Montana to Florida where everything is flat and humid. As the new kid in his middle school, he’s the target of a bully who attacks him repeatedly throughout the story. But because of that bully, Roy spots a strange, shoeless boy running past the bus stop and decides to follow him. The boy lives in a junkyard and routinely stirs up trouble at the future home of a pancake restaurant. As Roy plunges deeper into the mystery of the vacant lot and the boy, he discovers the lot is home to several burrows of protected owls. With the help of the running boy and another new friend, Roy sets out to thwart construction plans and save the owls.

Why We Picked It: Hoot is a dynamic story with a plot that is both layered and entertaining. There are several characters and plotlines to keep track of and the actions of each character impact the outcome of the story. It provides a great example of middle school students taking on a large social issue. By tackling the challenges he faces, Roy illustrates that everyone can make a difference, no matter their age. This book explores land development, the destruction of wildlife habitat, and raises important questions about the rights of wild animals versus those of land owners.

What Readers Say:

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves realistic fiction and really, for anyone who loves to read.” —John, Goodreads reviewer

“The story is full of offbeat humor, buffoonish yet charming supporting characters, and genuinely touching scenes of children enjoying the wildness of nature.” —Booklist

“I recommend this book to all that care about nature and the environment. Way to go Carl Hiaasen, this book was exceptionally marvelous!” —Marielle, Goodreads reviewer

“You don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy it.” —The New York Times Book Review

The Book Club Meeting

Themed Snacks:

Having fun snacks at a book club meeting is always fun. Print out these Owl Treat Bag toppers to make a cute themed snack or party favor.

Reading Tips:

Hoot is a funny and fast-paced book with multiple characters and storylines to follow. Younger kids will likely need to read the book with an adult to keep track of its subplots, but older kids can read it independently. Try listening to the audiobook as a family so everyone can enjoy the story and nobody falls behind.

Because of the strong environmental theme in the book, kids can think about conservation efforts in your area and be ready to discuss the importance of protecting wildlife habitats.

Discussion Questions:

  1. At the beginning of the book, Roy misses his old home in Montana. Have you ever moved to a new place? What was the most challenging thing about it? How did you adjust to your new surroundings?
  1. Beatrice and Mullet Fingers have a very different family than Roy. Do you think the characters’ home lives affected their approach to the Mother Paula’s problem?
  1. The Environmental Impact Statement is missing from the Mother Paula’s file at City Hall. Is Roy correct in thinking that it was lost on purpose? What should the restaurant have done instead?
  1. Mullet Fingers trespasses, pulls pranks, and vandalizes property in order to postpone the land development. Are his tactics effective? What would you do differently?
  1. Roy’s mother says, “Sometimes you’re going to be faced with situations where the line isn’t clear between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your heart will tell you to do one thing, and your brain will tell you to do something different. In the end, all that’s left is to look at both sides and go with your best judgment.” When was Roy faced with a decision like this? Have you ever been faced with a decision where there wasn’t a clear right and wrong?
  1. Do you think Roy handles the bullies he encounters the right way? What could he do differently? What do you think you should do if you’re being bullied?
  1. Do you think Roy’s first impression of Beatrice is accurate? How do first impressions change over time?
  1. Protecting the environment is an important theme in this story. Why is protecting the environment so important to the characters? What can you do to protect your local environment?
  1. Curly the foreman works for Mother Paula’s, hires attack dogs to guard the property, and even denies the existence of the burrowing owls. At the end of the book, Curly goes to the empty lot to watch the owls with Roy’s family and Officer Delinko. Do you think Curly is a bad person or a good person? Why do you think he did those things? What would you have done if you were Curly?
  1. By the end of Hoot, Roy is starting to feel better about living in Florida and doesn’t miss Montana as much. Why do you think he changed his mind?

Printable Discussion Questions for Hoot


Activities to Dive Deeper into Hoot

Animal Exploration: Protecting wildlife is a major theme of this story. Look up information about the local wildlife and find out if any animals are endangered or protected in your area. Talk about their habitat, diet, and how humans can help these animals survive. Create a poster with a photo or drawing and interesting facts about your favorite animal.

Watch the Film Adaptation: Kids who have read the book will probably want to see the movie. It’s lighthearted, fun, and tackles the same themes and issues as the novel. Read the Common Sense Media review to find out more about the rating and content.

Take a Trip to City Hall: In the book, Roy goes to city hall to examine the public records of Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House. Take the kids to your own city hall for a tour so they can see how things work and how to access public information.

Make an Anti-Bullying Poster: Roy deals with several bullies in the story. As a group, discuss how to recognize a bully and what you should do if you or someone else is being bullied. Create an anti-bullying poster together and send it in to the National Bullying Prevention Center.

Host a Scavenger Hunt: The characters in the story spend a lot of time exploring and discovering new places and animals. Create a scavenger hunt and have the kids look for plants, animals, and objects in nature.

Play the Owl Simulation Survival Game: Find out what it’s like to be an owl! This simulation survival activity was created with Hoot in mind and helps players understand the struggles an owl family might go through. Find out how to play here.

What to Read Next

If your kids loved reading Hoot, here are some more books that explore similar themes like environmental issues and bullying. For even more books with an environmental aspect, check out this reading list.

Let us know what you thought of Hoot in the comments below.