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Grade 5-8–Noah and his sister, Abbey, are more understanding of their volatile dad's latest arrest than their mother, who begins talking of divorce. Dad sank the Coral Queen, a casino boat on a Florida Key because, he alleges, its owner, Dusty Muleman, has been illegally dumping raw sewage into the local waters. Soon enough the kids begin trying to gather proof that will vindicate their father and put the casino out of business. The colorful cast includes a drunken lout named Lice who disappears before he can be persuaded to testify against Dusty, his former boss. His rough-around-the-edges girlfriend, Shelly, comes through, though, helping the siblings dump dye in the boat's holding tanks, which finally brings the matter to court. Dusty's son, Jasper, is a chip off the old block, threatening and beating Noah on several occasions until he and, later, Abbey are rescued by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be their grandfather, long ago thought to have died in South America, probably while involved in drug smuggling. As the tale ends, he's back to Colombia to settle old scores. The plot would practically disappear if any one of the major characters had a cell phone, but the environmental story is front and center and readers will be hooked as the good guys try to do the right thing. This quick-reading, fun, family adventure harkens back to the Hardy Boys in its simplicity and quirky characters.–Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
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Gr. 5-8. Hiaasen's second novel exhibits some of the same elements found in his 2003 Newbery Honor Book: Florida local color, oddball adults (buxom and brawny), and a delightful quirkiness.But the sparkle that catapulted Hootinto the limelight isn't quite as brilliant here. Even so, there's plenty to like in this yarn, which, once again, drops an environmental issue into the lap of a kid. Righteous indignation, usually resulting from some sabotage of Florida's natural resources, has gotten Noah Underwood's dad in trouble before. This time, however, Dad's gone too far: he sunk a floating casino. Why? Its owner is dumping human waste in the water. Unfortunately, Dad can't prove it, and that's where Noah and his younger sister, Abbey, come in. The amateur sleuthing puts the sibs into some mildly suspenseful, occasionally amusing, situations, which, as in the previous book, share space with run-ins with a local bully (Noah takes some lumps but gets sweet revenge). An old-fashioned deus ex machina interrupts an otherwise believable setup, but Hiaasen still succeeds at relating an entertaining story while getting across a serious message about conservation and the results of just plain greed. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.