A Pop Culture Phenomenon in Chomp

Carl Hiaasen delves back into the realm of children's books and comes up with another hit. As with any Haaisen novel things get twisted and turned around and crazy antics ensue. This novel is a fun fast read that is enjoyable to anyone from the preteen group and older.

This book is about a pompous, arrogant reality star (always a rich subject for comedy) and the family hired to help him. His name is Derek Badger, and he hosts a show where he survives various extreme wilderness environments.
The problem is that off camera, Derek is extremely pampered and couldn't survive five minutes if it weren't for careful camera editing.

"Chomp" by Carl Hiaasen is Hiaasen's fourth book for kids, following "Hoot," "Flushed" and "Scat." And it follows the same vein as the other three. It's nature based. It has characters with wild names like Wahoo and Tuna. And in "Chomp," our villain is a Bear Grylls/Steve Irwin wannabe named Derek Badger. Wahoo and his father, Mickey are hired to babysit/wrangle animals for an episode of Derek's show, but things quickly spiral out of control.

When download or buy CHOMP is just so hilariously wonderful. As always, the environmental message is delivered without beating the reader over the head. The send-up of the "man vs untamed nature" TV series is great. The best, though, is the relationship between the young hero, his dad, his mom and his friend. The dad might be considered a loser by some, but the boy recognizes that his father's integrity and passion are admirable and entirely worthy of respect.

This author always delivers, and reminded of a younger Tom Robbins, without the author intrusion, but with all the clever pacing and the quirky characters that seem to be goofy to be totally fictionalized. The young runaway, Tuna, for example, is predictably dodgy, suspicious, and proud. But she is also an expert at the Latin names for the dazzling flora abounding in the deep Everglades.

Derek the "survivalist," who turns out to be anything but, is a contradiction in the book. He is in many spots a simpering, egotistical fool. When he leaps onto Alice though, for what turns out to be the ride of his life, he displays his reckless, extreme side.

The book skewers "reality" TV all along the way. Turns out that "reality" TV producers come up with what's called a "soft script" for each episode, and then the real people/actors ad lib to achieve the desired end. Hiaasen's genius is taking that reality and turning it on its head, poking fun at everyone as the plot moves from bad to worse.

Mr. Hiaasen's adult novels are generally rated 'R', and this one, while devoid of sex, might tread toward that territory with moments of domestic violence. This becomes an important caution for young readers who might have some sensitivity to that issue, because they are laid bare as traumatic plot elements here. In the end, the book is quite enjoyable, whether you're 9 or 49.