Sophisticated kids’ fiction

The front cover of Carl Hiaasen's kids' novel HootThe front cover from Elmore Leonard's kids novel A Coyote's in The House
Elmore Leonard, A Coyote’s in the House
Carl Hiaasen, Hoot

Under the seedy glamour and wise-cracking cynicism of your classic American crime novel there’s usually a pretty basic story with all the ingredients for a great kids’ book – a hero, a journey, a challenge, a resolution blah blah. I don’t know why nobody thought of this before but Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard, two of the best living crime writers, have both recently had a go at this new sub-genre (what shall we call it? Kids’ Crime? Kid Noir?) and with great success. I think the Hiaasen is my favourite but it’s close.

Both feature classic crime fiction heros: brave, laconic, drily funny (although Leonard’s happens to be a dog and Hiaasen’s a thirteen year-old boy) and both stick to the well-trodden landscape of modern crime noir: Hiaasen’s suburban Florida and Leonard’s Hollywood. I guess these books are aimed at young teens but my 5 and 7 year-olds have been laughing like drains at Hiaasen’s Hoot at bedtime over the last few nights. It’s such a good read that we’ve wound up reading two chapters instead of the usual one on several occasions. A real pleasure.

The Hiaasen features a bunch of endangered Burrowing Owls which, it turns out, are a cause celebre in real-life Florida and the Leonard is illustrated by Lauren Child, which is a bonus.

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