Author: Carl Hiaasen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 27th, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Middle Grade Novel
GoodReads Summary: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 . . .
It's anyone's guess who will actually survive "Expedition Survival"...
What I Think: The characters from this book will stay with me for a very long time. I listened to Chomp on audio and the narrator did an excellent job of bringing these characters to life. Truly, Carl Hiaasen has created wonderfully memorable characters. Wahoo, the main character, is a really down-to-earth kid who wants to help his family. His dad ends up in all sorts of crazy situations, whether he's dealing with animals or humans, but at the same time, he has such an easy going nature. They are only two of the fascinating characters in this book.
As a mentor text, this book is great for looking at character development or characterization. Readers can think about how Hiaasen uses dialogue and description to help readers visualize each of the characters. Then writers can try to build their own characters, describing them and putting them into wild and crazy situations. I attended a yoga class once where the instructor talked about how you can put things into boiling water and they will react differently. An egg will become hard-boiled, coffee beans will turn into coffee, etc. She wanted participants to think about how we respond to difficult situations but this activity can certainly be applied to writing. Students might think about how the characters in Chomp would react to an unexpected situation and write one of the characters into a new scene or they can go beyond the characters in Chomp and create their own character to throw into an unexpected situation. For me, the characters were charming but funny and they really drove the story.
One other great aspect I love about Hiaasen's books is that he is able to weave science in so seamlessly. This book talks about animals, caring for them, their nature, their habitats but also about different locations and what you might find there. I love how he incorporates this element of science into Chomp.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 6
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 8
Read With: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner
Snatch of Text:
"Mickey Cray had been out of work ever since a dead iguana fell from a palm tree and hit him on the head." (p. 1)
"Although she would never say it aloud, Raven Stark believed she was grossly underpaid. Her job title was 'senior production assistant,' but in reality she was also a babysitter, nurse, chauffeur, bartender, courier, valet, personal groomer and amateur psychologist." (p. 37)
"When Derek Badger became agitated, he sometimes misplaced his fake Australian accent.
'You call this a lobster?' he snarled at the attendant who delivered his dinner to the hotel room. 'I've eaten bloody shrimp that were bigger!'" (p. 119)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you acted responsible and did something that you had to do but that you weren't excited to do.
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Responsibility, Determination