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A middle grade novel by Carl Hiaasen published in 2002. It won a Newbery Honor in the following year.

The plot follows a boy in middle-school named Roy Eberhardt and the construction of a pancake house in Coconut Cove, Florida. Roy's father has a government career which forces his family to relocate within the United States constantly. At the start of the novel, Roy is just settling into his new town.

He sees a mysterious barefoot boy, and attracts the ire of the school bully as well as the attention of the school's jockiest jock (who also happens to be a girl) just on his first day. Further investigation leads him to find out that the barefoot boy is protecting a family of burrowing owls and is also the one "sabotaging" the construction of the pancake house.

A film adaptation was released in 2006, starring Luke Wilson, Logan Lerman, and Brie Larson.


This novel has examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Lonna Leep, Mullet Fingers's mother and Beatrice's stepmother. Beatrice is tough as nails, but even she needs to get out of the house when Lonna "[falls] off her broom." Lonna's husband Leon is not abusive, but too lazy to take an interest in much of anything, including his daughter and stepson.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Garrett pretends to dictate Roy's apology letter to Dana:
    Garrett: "I'm sorry I smoked you. Please don't break every bone in my body. Please leave me at least one good arm so I can feed myself."
    Roy: You're hilarious.
  • Adults Are Useless: With the possible exception of Roy's parents, who mostly act as moral support, Officer Delinko, and Mr. Ryan.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Curly tries using these to guard the construction site. Mullet Fingers uses some water moccasins to cause their trainer to reclaim them and leave with them in a huff.
  • Berserk Button: Beatrice is not pleased when Lonna swipes a topaz charm that used to belong to her mother and makes it into a toe ring.
  • Big Bad: Chuck Muckle, the Vice-President for Corporate Relations of Mother Paula's who's pushing as hard as he can to make sure the pancake house in Coconut Cove opens on schedule, even if it means burying a bunch of endangered burrowing owls alive.
  • The Big Guy: Beatrice. Who is huge for a sixth grade girl and can easily string up the (also huge) school bully on a flagpole.
  • Buried Alive: What's going to happen to the burrowing owls if Mother Paula builds a pancake house on top of their habitat. Even if the adult owls are able to fly away and make new habitats somewhere else, the baby owls will be trapped underground and will suffocate.
  • Captain Ersatz:
  • Cassandra Truth: No one will believe that there are burrowing owls on the construction site.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Garrett's mother is a middle school guidance counselor, but her son is a notorious troublemaker and class clown. Roy figures her job leaves her too tired to deal with Garrett when they get home.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Chuck Muckle. Who will not stop at anything to get that pancake house built. Not even Florida State Law will deter him.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Roy gets in trouble when he punches Dana Matherson, and as his punishment, he's banned from riding the bus, despite having evidence that Dana was choking him at the time. His mother, not realizing that her son wants to be alive, fights for him to get back on the bus. (Though Roy also suspects that she's just eager to resume her morning yoga lessons, which she can't attend as long as she's driving him to school every day.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: According to Garrett, Beatrice's reaction to a football player slapping her butt was to shove him into the water fountain hard enough to break his collarbone in three places. Ouch.
  • Embarrassing First Name / Embarrassing Middle Name: Napoleon Bridger for Mullet Fingers. There's also the school bully, who's first name is Dana.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mullet Fingers is willing to vandalize the site of the pancake house to disrupt construction and protect the owls, but he doesn't actually want anyone to get hurt. Even when he unleashes water moccasins (a kind of venomous snake) to scare the guard dogs, he tapes their mouths shut first and coats their tails in glitter so they'll be easy to spot.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Kalo, the trainer of the Angry Guard Dogs mentioned above.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: One of the Angry Guard Dogs is named "Pookie Face".
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: One of the things on Roy's lunch tray is an overbaked chocolate chip cookie "the size of a hockey puck and just about as tasty." It's so hard it makes a thud when it lands on his plate.
  • Funetik Aksent: Kalo, who is described as speaking with the same stock accent as the German soldiers in World War II movies.
    • In the film these lines are spoken exactly as written, with the result sounding more like Goldmember than any real German accent.
  • Guile Hero: Roy has a moment like this where he tricks Dana into going to the construction site by telling him about a stash of imaginary Gladiator Gold cigarettes. Beatrice is a straighter example.
  • Head Pet: While not a pet per se, the burrowing owls are familiar and comfortable enough around Mullet Fingers that they'll land on top of his head.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Beatrice swipes an unknown Trace Middle student's bike off the rack so that she and Roy can pedal out to see Mullet Fingers after he's been bitten by Kalo's guard dogs. The bike is later abandoned and recovered by the police.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Beatrice's father, Leon Leep, used to be a famous basketball player for the Miami Heat, but now, according to Mullet Fingers, "eats Hot Pockets and stares at ESPN all day long".
  • It's Personal: Initially, Officer Delinko's involvement in the Mother Paula's case is him simply doing his job as a patrolman. But after the humiliation, temporary demotion and negative press Mullet Fingers' antics cause him, he becomes much more determined to be the one who brings the Mother Paula's vandal to justice.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Beatrice, a notorious hardcase who's also pretty nice when she figures out Roy genuinely wants to help her stepbrother.
  • Kid Has a Point: A recurring theme in nearly all of Hiaasen's young adult novels. Several of the adult characters are not bad people, but they are too occupied with their own lives to worry about animal rights, environmental issues, or municipal corruption, while Roy, Mullet Fingers and Beatrice figure out for themselves what they need to do to save the owls at the construction site.
  • Meaningful Name: Mullet Fingers' nickname comes from his quick reflexes, allowing him to catch a mullet fish by hand. Roy tries it at the end of the book and think it's impossible, only to find Mullet Fingers already caught a fish and put it in his shoes.
  • Military School: Mullet Fingers is mentioned to have been sent to and ran away from one.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover features a pair of eyes and a beak on a blue background, and nothing else.
  • Nave Newcomer: Roy, who's just moved to Florida from Montana.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: Mullet Fingers plants cottonmouth snakes at the construction site, and both he and Roy know just how dangerous they are.
  • Odd Name Out: Kalo's four Rottweilers are named Max, Klaus, Karl, and... Pookie Face. The last one gets a somewhat incredulous reaction from Curly.
  • Ominous Owl: Subverted. While burrowing owls are tiny and adorable, their existence on the construction site spelled doom for the pancake house, as the Floridian burrowing owl is classified as "threatened".
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mullet Fingers. Near the end, Roy reads a newspaper article about him and it turns out that his full name is Napoleon Bridger Leep.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Officer Delinko. At first, he is determined to solve the Mother Paula's case in the interest of a promotion (and to get even with the perpetrator for making him look like a buffoon). But he eventually realizes what will happen to the burrowing owls on the pancake house lot if he actually does his job properly... and decides not to arrest Mullet Fingers or any of the other protesters at the groundbreaking ceremony.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Mullet Fingers puts a bunch of alligators in the construction workers' outhouses and releases a bunch of harmless cottonmouths in the site to keep the project from progressing.
  • Schmuck Bait: Roy's family lived in Montana before his father was transferred to Florida; Roy remarks on the irony that every year, the authorities in Yellowstone National Park put up huge signs that warn tourists not to approach, feed, or (God help you) try to ride the buffaloes, and every year some schmuck tries to do all three.
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Mullet Fingers, who ran away from military school and lives in the woods. There are a few times throughout the book where Roy worries about him getting in trouble with the law for truancy.
  • Shown Their Work / Shout-Out: Roy asks his father to open to 278 of The Sibley Guide To Birds. His father does so, then reads a passage from the book. If one opens the guide to the specified page, they will find the exact same passage.
  • Tomboy: Beatrice, who is the most athletic girl in the school.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In both the book and the film, Officer Delinko spends most of the story as the Butt-Monkey for Mullet Fingers's vandalism, but when he interrogates Dana Matherson, he calmly hoists a miniature (live) alligator out of a bag, and Dana's terrified reaction instantly proves he's not responsible for the vandalism.
  • Tsundere: Beatrice is a Type A.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Kimberly Lou Dixon, the actress who plays the pancake house's mansion Mother Paula. She's very beautiful, but has a voice like E.T. and an uncouth vocabulary. Granted, her voice fits a lot better when she's made up as an old grandma like Mother Paula.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Subverted in that Beatrice's stepmother isn't very nice to her own son either.

The film has examples of the following tropes:

  • Scenery Porn: The film features some truly gorgeous visuals of Florida's coastline. According to director Will Shriner's DVD commentary, Carl Hiaasen actually complained a little about it, since the overarching goal of his novels is to discourage people from visiting or settling in Florida.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mullet Fingers, in a clear moment of teen-girl fanservice. If you can believe it, it's also a case of Adaptational Modesty with the equivalent scene in the book.


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