Hiassen fan finds more to love

Michael Oechsle is the author of the middle grade novel “The Lost Cipher.” He is an elementary school art teacher in Hillsborough and a professional photographer.

Recommended read: Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen. As a big Hiassen fan, I’ve read everything he’s written for adults, but I’m just now catching up on his books for young readers. Just like his adult fare, what’s great about “Chomp” and his other middle grade books is how their loveable protagonists are pitted against truly detestable but utterly hapless foes, always with hilarious consequences. Hiassen’s love for his native Florida is evident, too, with its dangerous flora and fauna usually giving an assist to the good guys. “Chomp” is a laugh-filled look at how “reality” television (in this case, a wilderness survival show) isn’t always so real, and in typical Hiassen fashion, everyone – especially the bad guy – gets exactly what they deserve in the end.

Currently reading:Light of the World” by James Lee Burke and “The Burning Room” by Michael Connelly.

What favorite book from childhood have you kept?Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson. Some of my earliest reading memories are of this book, and I still have it. Being a creative kid from a very young age, I think I really identified with Harold.

What is your favorite book that nobody’s heard of?Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart. There’s no shortage of post-apocalyptic fiction these days, but if you ask me, this 1949 tale that spans the life of one survivor and the rebirth of civilization after a global pandemic is better than most.

What movie was better than the book? Two from the same author , actually – “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand By Me” – but only because they were just too short as novellas in Stephen King’s “Different Seasons” collection.

What is your favorite reading memory? It’s bittersweet because both of them have recently left the nest for Chapel Hill, but I’ll always have fond memories of reading to my children, Sarah and Lee. At least they’re old enough now that we can recommend books to each other.

Where do you go for book recommendations? Family and friends who know me best usually make the best book recommendations, but I also just like to read jackets and take my chances at our public library in Hillsborough. Usually if I take home three or four books, there’s one in the pile that I really fall for.

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Carl Hiaasen

Alfred A. Knopf, 290 pages