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
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.