Florida writer Carl Hiaasen’s new children’s book, Skink-No Surrender, comes out Sept. 23. To celebrate, he will be speaking that day at Temple Judea at 7 p.m. in an event sponsored by Books and Books.
That also is the kickoff of a 16-city book tour that will take him all over the country.
“It’s great fun to meet the actual readers,” he said. “Kids are the most rewarding audience. They are loyal, inquisitive and energetic. They also give you their honest views — if they like it, if they don’t like it, they tell you.”
These days, Hiaasen is alternating between his adult novels and the books for younger teens. His first kids book, Hoot, is a Newbery Honor Book, and remains the bestselling of his books for kids.
“The nice thing about the kids books is they are taught in lots of schools,” he said. “Which is shocking to me. You never think of writing books that are used in the classroom. A lot of the books are on reading lists. Each generation of sixth graders get the books.”
In the new book, Hiaasen introduces Skink, a character who is so well known in his adult novel that Jimmy Buffet mentions him in a song.
“Some of his behaviors are marginally controversial. He sort of lives on the edge,” Hiaasen said. “I tidied him up and put him in the custody of a teenaged character. He’s a former governor of Florida. He’s an outlaw. And he disappeared in the mangroves. He quit in the middle of the term. I’m very fond of that character, Skink.”
In Skink, Richard’s cousin Mallory runs away with a guy she meets on the Internet. In his quest to find her, Richard accidently ends up enlisting Skink’s help. Hiaasen wasn’t sure how well Skink would be received so he turned to someone he knew would give him an honest assessment.
“My son was 13 when he read the first draft. He’s at the age where he reads the adult book,” Hiaasen said. “He loved it. He thought his friends would love it.”
In this book, Hiaasen brings out issues related to the Internet and the danger to kids. It’s an issue that worries him, because he has a 14-year-old son and grandchildren. He said his son is more Internet savvy than he is. “You put on the parental controls but you can’t be with them 24-7.
You can’t be with them whenever they are online,” Hiaasen said. “And now with the cell phones…”
Hiaasen said parents hope their kids are smart enough to keep away from a predator, but in a case where a kid is having a hard time at home, when they find someone who is sympathetic, they gravitate to that. In other books, he has tackled issues such as the foreclosure crisis.
In Chomp, the main character’s house is being foreclosed on because the dad is out of work since he suffered an injury when a frozen iguana falls on his head.
“It’s a sign of the times. There are millions of kids in that predicament,” he said. “I got letters from kids who laughed at the humor and who told me that their moms and dads were trying to hold on to their house. You’re grateful you are able to bring laugher to their lives.”
He’s appreciative of the mail he gets from his young fans.
“It’s so rewarding, the letters are hilarious and sharp,” he said.
His speaking event will be live streamed.
For more information go to www.BooksandBooks.com or call 305- 442-4408.