Scat: A Review

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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.

Review:

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.

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