Scat: A Review

Topics: Book reviewUncategorized
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.

About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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