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Talk About: Flush

Reading, Talk About

Published on: November 13, 2023

Written by: Gina Hagler

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Talk About posts give you the key events and essential information you need to discuss a Core Book with the children in your life.

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by Carl Hiaasen

Flush is the story of one Florida family’s battle against a polluting businessman who seems able to get away with anything!

Lexile: 770L | Reading Level: Grades 5-7

Story World

When Noah’s dad decides to sink the Coral Queen, a casino boat that’s illegally dumping raw sewage into the ocean, he winds up in jail. That’s bad enough, but there seems to be no way to prove the Coral Queen is doing anything wrong. Then Noah, Abbey, and their friend Shelly come up with a perfect plan. Of course, perfect and foolproof are two different things, and it gets complicated. Ultimately, the good guys win, but the road to success is filled with the very funny twists and turns we expect from Hiaasen.

Key Characters

Their interactions tell the story:

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Noah’s dad is a mix of idealism and poor anger management. When his complaints to the authorities go nowhere, he sinks the Coral Queen to make a statement. This puts him in jail, where he refuses to post bail – also to prove a point. All of this is hard on the family because, while he’s in jail, he’s not earning any of the money they need to pay the bills.
Noah’s mom is beyond furious with his dad because this is not the first time he’s proved a point and brought trouble on all of them. She doesn’t make enough to pay all their expenses; she needs him to be doing his part. She love his idealism, but she wishes her husband would stop and think before acting.

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Noah is old enough to visit his dad in jail this time. He’s concerned that his dad isn’t taking this seriously. Then again, he’s also concerned that his dad is right about the Coral Queen illegally dumping raw sewage and getting away with it. He’s especially upset because the sewage means the beach is often closed, but worse than that, it’s not healthy for the turtles who must come up the beach to lay their eggs. He and younger sister, Abbey, decide they must do something.
Abbey depends on Noah to keep their dad in line; she sees her role as keeping an eye on their mom. Abbey is very independent and fearless. She nearly gets herself caught in a bad spot when she sneaks out to get proof of the illegal dumping. With Noah, she comes up with a plan to flush die in the toilets on the Coral Queen, knowing when the tanks is dumped in the middle of the night, the die will leave a visible trail back to the boat.

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What Lice lacks in basic hygiene, he nearly makes up for by being a decent guy. He agrees to testify to what he knows about Dusty Muleman’s illegal operations – in exchange for an expensive boat that Noah’s dad owns. Then, Lice disappears before he can come through. Eventually, he turns up and, in order to prove to Shelly that he is worth her time, comes through.
Shelly was Dusty Muleman’s fiance until she had enough of him. She is now with Lice, not the most likely person, but she somehow sees upside potential. She agrees to help Noah and Abbey with their plan, even knowing it is dangerous for her. Why? She can see that Dusty is ruining the environment, being dishonest, and perhaps has done away with Lice.

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Dusty Muleman

Dusty Muleman has a cash register where a moral compass ought to be. He’s worked a deal to legally run a gambling operation on a boat within the three-mile limit. He makes more than $10,000 a night, more than enough to have the sewage from the Coral Queen disposed of legally, yet dumps it over the side in the middle of the night. He uses the bad things he knows about people to get them to do things his way, so even when he is caught, he still manages to slip out of trouble.

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Jasper Jr./Bull

Jasper Jr. is Dusty Muleman’s son. He is a total bully who lives to torment Noah. He ultimately causes his dad to lose the Coral Ocean by starting a fire that burns the boat to the waterline.
Bull would be a much better person if he didn’t hang around with Jasper Jr. However, once Grandpa Bobby threatens them, Bull stops messing with Noah.

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Grandpa Bobby

Grandpa Bobby is Noah’s dad’s long-lost father. They thought he was dead, but he’s really been hiding while finding the guys who stole his boat during a shady deal involving emeralds. When he sees a television report of the trouble his family is in, he comes to Florida and keeps an eye on things. He saves Noah and Abbey more than once, promising that he’ll return once he has his boat.

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The Plan

How can you prove someone is doing something wrong and in such a big way, that it doesn’t matter that he has the enforcement people afraid to do their jobs? That’s the question Noah and Abbey must answer if they are to prove once and for all that Dusty Muleman is breaking the law. With Noah, Abbey comes up with a plan to flush die in the toilets on the Coral Queen. Then, when the storage tank is emptied illegally in the middle of the night, the die will leave a visible trail back to the boat. Shelly agrees to help becuase it will take too much time to empty all the tiny die bottles and flush the toilets. Even with the photograph evidence taken from the air by the Coast Guard, Dusty looks like he’ll get away with it.

What Do Noah and Abbey Learn?

The messages/themes in this book speak to tweens:

  • It’s not enough to be right; you need to be able to prove it.
  • Sometimes you need to make a stand for what you believe in.
  • Truly despicable people may look like they’re getting away with what they’re doing, but Mom just might be right that what goes around comes around – the despicable guy will get his eventually.

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