This Everglades adventure has humor, action, a well-developed cast of characters, and biting–lots of biting.
Recommended grade level: 5-9
Pages: 290 (for ISBN 9780375868429)
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”… (Source)
Who will like this book?: I most often give this to kids looking for humor. It’s an adventure and survival book as well, but the humor makes it less tense than some other books in these genres (despite the heavy topic of domestic abuse). Fans of Hiaasen’s other books will no doubt enjoy this one, too.
Who won’t like this book?: Weirdness isn’t for everyone. Despite the appealing subject matter, the book isn’t quite fast-paced enough to give it a strong recommendation for reluctant readers.
Other comments: I once got bitten by an ostrich. True story.
Readalikes: Carl Hiaasen has a distinctive goofy/quirky/mystery/adventure thing going on that can be found in all his books. Hoot, Scat, and Flush are his other books for middle school readers. Skink–No Surrender is a YA title recommended for grades 9 and up. There’s no one else quite like Hiaasen. The closest readlike I know for Chomp is the FunJungle series by Stuart Gibbs, which are funny and have animals. Some other goofy or quirky books with mystery and adventure are Holes by Louis Sachar and The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry.