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Carl Hiaasen, . . Knopf, $16.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83486-8

Hiaasen reprises Hoot with a panther in the owl role, an oil company as the villain and a rich renegade named Twilly Spree as the outlaw environmentalist determined to save Florida from developers. The kid hero is Nick Waters, saintly son of a minor league pitching coach who joined the National Guard to augment a meager salary, wound up in Iraq and has come back badly injured. Nick’s ample worries multiply after his science teacher disappears while on a field trip to the Black Vine Swamp. When Nick goes to the aid of a classmate suspected of involvement in the teacher’s disappearance, he stumbles onto dangerous facts about the swamp: an endangered Florida panther has taken up residence, and an oil company has begun an illegal drilling operation. Nick is way too good to be true—he’s more the son every parent dreams of—but Hiaasen’s smooth writing, whacked-out humor and highly entertaining cast of oddball characters keep the plot clipping along. The achievement is in the underlying earnestness—formulaic or not, the story will move readers, and any kid who loved Hoot will like this. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)