Too Darn Cute

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Written by Carl Hiaasen
Ages: 10-14

Roy Eberhardt just moved to Coconut Cove, Florida. He doesn't have any close friends in his new middle school, but he does have a bully. While trying to stand up for himself without getting beat up too badly, Roy becomes captivated with a mysterious, barefooted boy he sees running by the school bus one day. When Roy meets the mysterious boy and his bully-defeating sister Beatrice, the unlikely group of friends tries to stop Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House from building a new restaurant in Coconut Cove. The new restaurant would destroy a colony of borrowing owls, so Roy battles with issues of right and wrong and he tries to figure out what to do.

This is a fun story filled with interesting characters (both children and adults) that I think children will enjoy. Though I didn't love the book, it was enjoyable and there are several reasons I would keep this one in my classroom. There are so many things about the story that children can relate to that finding connections will likely be easy for any student. It connects well with curriculum taught in the classroom, so it would make a great literature circle novel, class novel, or read aloud. Hiaasen includes lots of humor in his story and provides enough mystery that kids will enjoy reading and want to keep reading to find out what happens. Here are a few ways you could use it in the classroom:

There are several cross-curriculum connections between this book and science. It's a great one for connecting with the science content I taught in a 4th grade Utah classroom, and I would suppose the core standards are similar for 4th-graders in other states (they are in Pennsylvania!). While I wouldn't use the novel to teach the content, it provides a great support to concepts that have been taught. Here are some things I would want to connect the novel to:

  • Animal classification: There are quite a few animals mentioned and described in Hoot. My 4th graders and I spent a lot of time talking about and looking at the different classifications of animals (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc), so this would be a fun way to review those classifications by identifying the groups of the animals mentioned in the book. Some of the animals in Hoot are burrowing owls, osprey, tarpons, white herons, alligators, blue crabs, mullet, and cottonmouth water moccasins.
  • Environment: We also spent a good chunk of time learning about the desert environment of Utah and the plants and animals that exist in that climate. Hoot is set in Florida, which has a very different climate than Utah. It would be fun to compare and contrast the two environments (or wherever you teach) and identify which type of environment is found in Florida.
  • Plant and animal adaptations (or characteristics that plants and animals have that help them survive in their environment) were a fun part of the 4th grade curriculum. While reading, I would review this concept with the class and talk about some of the adaptations of the animals found in Hoot, such as Borrowing Owls.
  • Changes in habitat: A big theme of the story is how the building of a new business will affect the habitat of Burrowing Owls. I would definitely use this to ask students to predict how the changes proposed in the book would affect the animals and how the animals might react if they are made. 

Persuasive Writing
While this was a really big deal for the 5th graders in Utah, we started learning about and practicing persuasive writing in 4th grade, too. This is a fun novel to connect to writing because it brings up a great topic students can think about and respond to. Here are a few ideas:
  • Discuss how Mullet Fingers, Beatrice, and Roy tried to persuade Mother Paula's to stop building a new pancake house on the empty property. List the things they tried. Why do you think those things worked or didn't work?
  • Choose a side: Do you think Mother Paula's should be allowed to build a new pancake house? Write a 5-paragraph essay to express your opinion and convince your reader to agree with you.
    • *We expected our 5th-graders to write a well-thought out five paragraph essay to back up their position. Depending on the age you teach, that can be adapted. Younger students may be asked to make a list of reasons they think one way or the other. 

I would definitely keep this one in mind and put it on a list of recommended books for students. Whether used with the whole class or read by an individual, I think any student will get a "hoot" out of this one!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Washington, D.C.

What did you do during spring break this year? Oh, you didn't get one? You were too busy working? I guess this is one of the few perks of being a student (again). This time, at a school that believes (like most of the rest of the country) in a spring break. It was so nice to have my husband around all week to play and relax (and do some chores). We wanted to take advantage of the few days we had to visit one of the many exciting places that is only a few hours away from us. Washington, D.C. is less than four hours from us and we had such a fun weekend exploring, playing, and eating. Having friends and family from the area definitely paid off because we got some killer recommendations on what how to best use our time there, which was still far too short to do everything we would have liked to.

Our first day we spent eating lunch at Cava Mezze Grill, visiting the Holocaust Museum, checking out the White House (and a few other cool buildings nearby), and eating dinner at a cute little old-fashioned hamburger joint called Ollie's Trolley. By the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted so we knew it had been a successful day. Here's a little bit of what our day looked like:

The Holocaust Museum is a must-see. It is informative and eye-opening. Though it's not exactly kid-friendly (there's a lot of reading and some fairly graphic pictures/videos), I highly recommend spending a few hours here if you visit. You will not be disappointed.

You can't really see it, but I made him wear his USA
shirt to show our patriotism while at the capital!

He loves to point at things and people as we walk by.

Cutest boy ever!

Washington Monument

We wore this poor boy out after visiting the museum.
Those of you that know him, know that he NEVER falls
asleep anywhere other than his bed or the car (if he's
REALLY tired), so he must have been exhausted!

While trying to walk to the White House, we accidentally went to the back
first. Oops. But then we saw a couple of guys dressed in black walking all
over the roof and looking through a telescope. I'm pretty sure they were spies.

Can you see the spies on the roof?

Then we finally made our way to the front of the White House.

Just to prove that he was there. Ha!

Jacob kept telling me I didn't look excited enough...

The Treasury Department

I'm actually not sure what this is, but I thought
it was a really pretty building/clock.

"Fishing for fries"

He's becoming a real pro at drinking with straws.
I'm not sure why, but I think it's so cute!
When did he get to be such a big boy?

Our second day was spent spying the Capitol Building, touring the Smithsonian Museum of American History, visiting the temple, and enjoying dinner at Cafe Deluxe with dessert at Georgetown Cupcakes. The museum was fun and there was just too much to see to do it at once. My favorite parts were Julia Child's kitchen (her actual kitchen, just as she used it) and the exhibit showing the inaugural gowns of the first ladies. It was a gorgeous day and we really enjoyed the warmer weather and blue skies as we walked around the city. Our day kind of looked like this:

Capitol Building

Seriously, do kids come any cuter than this?

It was such a beautiful day! 

Ready for dinner!

Trying out coloring for the first time

Shaved Prime Rib

Croque Monsieur with Tomato Soup

Time for dessert as the sun sets

So many to choose from and they all looked SO GOOD!

Key Lime, Chocolate², and Cookies and Cream: Unfortunately Leo had to
go to bed before cupcake time. But don't worry, we ate his for him.

Our last morning we slept in, went swimming in the hotel pool (and hot tub), and were super excited to go to church at the local French-speaking ward. We were sorely disappointed when we showed up and were the only car there. We think they had stake conference this weekend. Bummer! At least we got to try some delicious kebabs from Moby Dick's for lunch! As you've probably noticed, our vacations tend to center around good food and boy, did we have some yummy meals in DC!

Leo loved the pool. We will definitely
have to visit often this summer!

Modeling his cute French-style swimsuit

Something about the hotel room made Leo want
to start cruising around. He was really excited to
be walking for the first time!

We had a blast visiting DC! There is really so much to see and do that a couple of days just doesn't do it justice. I'm looking forward to our next visit!