Scat: A Review


Scat Audio cover

Title: SCAT

Author: Carl Hiassen

Narrated By: Ed Asner

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (hardcover); Listening Library (audio CD)

Publication Date: January 27, 2009

Length: 371 pages; 9 hours and 17 minutes

Genre: Eco-fiction; humorous; mystery; realistic fiction

Source: Checked out from library

Completed: October 7, 2013

POV: Third Person

Grade Level: 4-12

Age: 9-12

Memorable: Humorous and memorable character descriptions. Beginning scene with Mrs. Starch that defines the main characters.

One line summary: When his stern biology teacher disappears in the Florida Black Vine Swamp, Nick Waters discovers he and his friend Marta may need to rescue the teacher and the swamp from a greedy oil company.


I had read and listened to this book before but longed to sink into a well-told tale again on my drives to work without having to suffer through trying out a book that might not work for me. My October has been a full of classes, meetings and kid’s appointments. I needed a sure thing to help me relax and remembered loving SCAT before.

The opening scene once again impressed me with its power and with Hiassen’s ability to craft a scene. Ed Asner did a bang up job of reading, and I felt drawn into the moment when the slouching kid named Smoke shocks the class after taking a few too many jibes from his biology teacher Mrs. Starch. After I picked up my fourteen year old, we listened to it again in awe, admiring both Hiassen’s writing and Asner’s reading.

I especially liked Hiassen’s first line: “The day before Mrs. Starch vanished, her third-period biology students trudged silently, as always, into the classroom.” The author tucked in a sliver of doom before launching into what at first seemed like an everyday classroom event.

The scene that followed painted a picture that made me wonder if Smoke might actually do something to Mrs. Starch, making her disappearance in the Black Vine Swamp all the more intriguing.

I also admired Hiassen’s expertly woven information. The mystery came to a head with Nick in a tree and the bad guy wandering lost in the swamp he plotted to destroy. The writer neatly turned a few of the readers’ assumptions upside down.

The subplot with Nick’s father and the war in Iraq somehow works even though I felt it was stretched at the end. I wondered if Hiassen, too, fell in love with his story and wasn’t quite ready to leave it.

At times, I also felt Scat took environmentalism to an extreme with references to ecological activism that bordered on violence, but I couldn’t help feeling sympathetic to the idea of saving Florida wetlands and the vulnerable wildlife that live there. Besides, it is difficult to get in a knot over silly bad guys with pliers on their lips or the potential destruction of a company due to “panther poop.”

Overall, Scat was a good read that made my commute ever so much better for about a week.

Finding Lotus Flowers in Tacoma


Mural behind the Tacoma Buddhist Temple

Not too long ago I found a post from a shirttail relative on my Facebook page. My father’s cousin’s son (I think that means he’s my second cousin) posts a variety of things from science tidbits to grammar funnies and photography. One day he posted a mural in progress that caught my imagination.

I shared it on Facebook and many others liked it, too. Watching it grow in the pictures my cousin posted, I began to wonder exactly where I might find this wonder created with a lift and spray paint. I work downtown and could tell from the address that it was somewhere next to the apartments where I teach. The day I saw it completed, I decided to leave a little early to have a look.

The first time I had no luck. I knew I was on the right street but saw nothing like the giant octopus with the lady and lotuses. All I found were a few old brick churches with no paint in sight. Googling it again that night to check the address, I confirmed what I already knew: I was in the right area. While searching for it electronically, I did, however, discover an entire murals project I hadn’t known existed. I’ve written before about my love for Tacoma in spite of her blemishes, but I think I love more the people out there improving her with their buckets of sprayed on color.

The Tacoma Murals Project is working to improve the city by putting up murals with the help of artists working together with communities. They finished 15 from 2010 to 2012 according to their website. The mural I was searching for by Chelsea O’Sullivan on 17th and Court D was one of 6 new murals according to the News Tribune. I had a delightful time looking at the website with the pictures of places transformed by art as I tried to figure out where the lady with the lotus blossoms was hiding.

Driving back the next morning, I discovered O’Sullivan’s work was down an alley on the backside of one of the churches I had seen on the first day. The church is actually the Tacoma Buddhist Temple — it’s plain front side sits at the address of 1717 Fawcett Avenue listed on the Facebook page.  I took pictures in that alley and stood soaking in the sight I had only ever seen on a screen before. A self-guided tour of these project murals might be in my near future because finding that art hiding nearby felt like discovering gold in the neighborhood where I work. Blessings on those who bring these joys into the world and thank goodness for shirttail relatives who keep up with these things.


Cherry Blossoms flowing over and around the side of a building.


A Pacific Octopus


Lady with lotuses.


Full picture minus the octopus blocked by a jeep.