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Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone... Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller. Some facts about Billy Dickens: * He...
Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone... Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller. Some facts about Billy Dickens: * He...
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Description-

  • Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone... Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller.
    Some facts about Billy Dickens:
    * He once saw a biker swerve across the road in order to run over a snake.
    * Later, that motorcycle somehow ended up at the bottom of a canal.
    * Billy isn't the type to let things go.
    Some facts about Billy's family:
    * They've lived in six different Florida towns because Billy's mom insists on getting a house near a bald eagle nest.
    * Billy's dad left when he was four and is a total mystery.
    * Billy has just found his dad's address—in Montana.
    This summer, Billy will fly across the country, hike a mountain, float a river, dodge a grizzly bear, shoot down a spy drone, save a neighbor's cat, save an endangered panther, and then try to save his own father.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    This one kid, he got kicked out of school.

    That's not easy to do—you need to break some actual laws. We heard lots of rumors, but nobody gave us the straight story.

    The kid's name was Jammer, and I got his locker.

    Who knows what he kept in there, but he must've given out the combination to half the school. Kids were always messing with my stuff when I wasn't around.

    So I put a snake inside the locker. Problem solved.

    It was an Eastern diamondback, a serious reptile. Eight buttons on the rattle, so it made some big noise when people opened the locker door. The freak-out factor was high.

    Don't worry—the rattlesnake couldn't bite. I taped its mouth shut. That's a tricky move, not for rookies. You need steady hands and zero common sense. I wouldn't try it again.

    The point is I didn't want that rattler to hurt anyone. I just wanted kids to stay out of my locker.

    Which they now do.

    I set the diamondback free a few miles down Grapefruit Road, on the same log where I found him. It's important to exit the scene fast, because an adult rattlesnake can strike up to one-half of its body length. Most people don't know that, and why would they? It's not a necessary piece of information, if you live a halfway normal life.

    Which I don't.

    "What does your dad do?"

    I hear this question whenever we move somewhere new.

    My standard answer: "He runs his own business."

    But the truth is I don't know what my father does. He sends a check, Mom cashes it. I haven't seen the guy since I was like three years old. Maybe four.

    Does it bother me? Possibly. Sure.

    I've done some reading about this, how it can mess up a person when his parents split, especially when one of them basically vanishes from the family scene. I don't want to be one of those screwed-up kids, but I can't rule out the possibility.

    Mom doesn't say much about Dad. The checks always show up on time—the tenth of the month—and they never bounce. We might not be rich, but we're definitely not poor. You wouldn't believe how many pairs of shoes my sister owns. God, I give her so much grief.

    The way I look at it, Mom doesn't get a free pass just because she doesn't want to talk about my father. That's not what you'd call a healthy, open approach to an issue. So I stay on her case, though not in a mean way.

    "What does he do for a living?" I'll say, like I've never asked before.

    "Well, Billy, I'm not exactly sure what he does," she'll begin in the same tight voice, "but I can tell you what he doesn't do."

    Over time, based on my mother's commentary, I've scratched the following professions off my Phantom Father list:

    Astronaut, quantum physicist, lawyer, doctor, heavy-metal guitarist, veterinarian, architect, hockey player, NASCAR driver, jockey, plumber, roofer, electrician, pilot, policeman, car salesman, and yoga instructor.

    Mom says Dad's too claustrophobic to be an astronaut, too lousy at math to be a quantum physicist, too shy to be a lawyer, too squeamish to be a doctor, too uncoordinated to play the guitar, too tall to be a jockey, too hyper for yoga, and so on.

    I don't like this game, but I'm making progress, information-wise. Mom's still touchy about the subject, so I try to take it easy. Meanwhile, my sister, Belinda, acts like she doesn't care, like she's not the least bit curious about the old man. This fake attitude is known as a "coping mechanism," according to...

About the Author-

  • CARL HIAASEN was born and raised in Florida. He writes a column for the Miami Herald and is the author of many bestselling novels, including Razor Girl and Bad Monkey. His books for younger readers include the Newbery Honor winner Hoot, as well as Flush, Scat, Chomp, and Skink—No Surrender.
    You can read more about Hiaasen's work at carlhiaasen.com, and follow him on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @Carl_Hiaasen.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2018
    Billy Dickens is not the kind of kid who suffers bullies or poachers or absent parents.Billy's dad left when Billy was 3. Checks arrive on the 10th of every month, but Billy's mom destroys the envelopes to keep the return address from Billy. Shortly before summer vacation, Billy pieces one together and discovers his father's in Montana, so he leaves Florida to find him. Billy's tired of his mother's evasiveness about his father--all he knows is that he's got a new wife and family--and Billy's ready for answers. In Montana, Billy meets Lil, his stepmother, and Summer, his stepsister, both members of the Crow Nation. But not his dad. Lil and Summer profess to know as little as his mother about his dad's actual job, but they don't mind having Billy wait with them for him to return (they even give him a little primer on U.S.-Native Nations relations). When his father's truck is found abandoned with slashed tires, they get a message via drone: "See you in Florida." Billy's had enough. He tracks his dad down, but that turns out to be just the beginning of his adventure. Hiaasen's newest wildlife-centered caper for middle graders is characteristically entertaining--and, just as characteristically, genially improbable. Narrator Billy's white, a sarcastic outsider with a strong sense of justice and a deep affection for snakes. Humorous, self-deprecating narration and convoluted exploits will keep pages turning till the satisfying close. (Fiction. 9-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 13, 2018
    The focus of the latest eco-adventure by Hiaasen (Chomp) is not an endangered animal but an elusive one: Billy Dickens’s absent father. When Billy was three or four, his dad disappeared, though support checks still arrive monthly. Billy’s mother, a bird lover, moves him and his older sister every few years so she can live within 15 minutes of an active eagle’s nest. She’s an otherwise responsible party, but she aggravates Billy in one other way: she refuses to share information about his father’s whereabouts. Billy pieces together his dad’s address in Montana after fishing bits of an envelope from the trash, and he uses his mother’s credit card to book a flight there from Florida. (Mature beyond his years, he leaves a check from his own savings to cover airfare.) In Livingston, Billy meets his father’s new wife and his stepsister, both members of the Crow Nation, and becomes embroiled in his father’s well-intentioned but dangerous attempts to protect wildlife from trophy hunters. Billy is an admirable kid with deeply improbable snake-handling abilities, and the story never quite fulfills the promise of singularity offered in the opening scene, wherein Billy keeps people out of his school locker by placing an Eastern diamondback there. Ages 8–12. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM.

  • Kirkus Reviews "Humorous, self-deprecating narration and convoluted exploits will keep pages turning till the satisfying close."
  • Booklist "Hiaasen's latest is richly steeped in the natural world and all the peril it contains, from rattlers to grizzlies. Still, what may be most satisfying for readers are the personal connections Billy makes, whether it's getting to know his new stepsister or making peace with his dad."

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    Random House Children's Books
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