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The plot follows a boy in middle-school named Roy and the construction of a pancake house in Coconut Cove, Florida. Roy's father has a military career which forces his family to relocate within the United States constantly. At the start of the novel, Roy is just settling into his new town.
He sees a mysterious barefoot boy, attracts the ire of the school bully as well as the attention of the school's jockiest jock (who also happens to be a girl) just on his first day. Further investigation leads him to find out that the barefoot boy is protecting a family of burrowing owls and is also the one "sabotaging" the construction on a local pancake house.
This novel has examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Beatrice, and how.
- Adults Are Useless: With the possible exception of Roy's parents, who mostly act as moral support, and Officer Delinko.
- Angry Guard Dog: Curly employs a few to guard the construction site.
- Berserk Button: When Lonna steals a topaz charm that used to belong to Beatrice's mother and makes it into a toe ring, Beatrice is not happy.
- The Big Guy: Beatrice. Who is huge for a sixth grade girl and can easily string up the (also huge) school bully on a flagpole.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Beatrice and Dana.
- The Bully: Dana Matherson.
- Cassandra Truth: No one will believe that there are burrowing owls on the construction site.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Chuck Muckle. Who will not stop at anything to get that pancake house built. Not even Florida State Law will deter him.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Mullet Fingers is described as such. Justifed because he spends almost all of his time outside in the Florida sun.
- Disproportionate Retribution: According to Garrett, Beatrice's reaction to a football player slapping her butt was to shove him into the water fountain and break three of his collarbones. Ouch.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Mullet Fingers.
- Embarrassing First Name / Embarrassing Middle Name: Napoleon Bridger for Mullet Fingers.
- Fluffy Tamer: Kalo, the trainer of the Angry Guard Dogs mentioned above.
- Fluffy the Terrible: The Angry Guard Dogs are referred as and implied to be named "Pookie" and "Kissy-face" by Kalo.
- Foot Focus: Roy sure spends a lot of time focusing on Mullet Fingers' bare feet...
- Friend to All Living Things: Mullet Fingers.
- Funetik Aksent: Kalo, who is German.
- Green Aesop
- Guile Hero: Roy has a moment like this where he tricks Dana into going to the construction site by telling him about a stash of imaginary Gladiator Gold cigarettes. Beatrice is a straighter example.
- Head Pet: While not a pet per se, the burrowing owls are familiar and comfortable enough around Mullet Fingers that they'll land on top of his head.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: Beatrice's father, Leon Leep, used to be a famous basketball player for the Miami Heat, but now, according to Mullet Fingers, "eats Hot Pockets and stares at ESPN all day long".
- Military School: Mullet Fingers is mentioned to have been sent to and ran away from one.
- Naive Newcomer: Roy.
- Nature Hero: Mullet Fingers.
- Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Mullet Fingers, who ran away from military school and lives in the woods.
- Only in Florida
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Mullet Fingers. Near the end, Roy reads a newspaper article about him and it turns out that his full name is Napoleon Bridger Leep.
- Owl Be Damned: Subverted. While burrowing owls are tiny and adorable, their existence on the construction site spelled doom for the pancake house.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Officer Delinko.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Mullet Fingers puts a bunch of alligators in the construction workers' outhouses and releases a bunch of harmlesscottonmouths in the site to keep the project from progressing.
- Shown Their Work / Shout-Out: Roy asks his father to open to 278 of The Sibley Guide To Birds. His father does so, then reads a passage from the book. If one opens the guide to the specified page, they will find the exact same passage.
- Tomboy: Beatrice, who is the most athletic girl in the school.
- Tsundere: Beatrice is a Type A.
- Wicked Stepmother: Subverted in that Beatrice's stepmother isn't very nice to her own son either.
- You Meddling Kids
The film has examples of the following tropes:
- The Film of the Book
- Funny Background Event: Whenever someone in The Movie says "Ling Ho" the real Ling Ho looks up.
- Line-of-Sight Name: In The Movie, Ling Ho.
- cottonmouths are ordinarily not harmless, but Mullet Fingers tied their mouths shut and painted them with glitter so they'd be easy to spot