Scat Paperback – Apr 27 2010
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Starred Review, School Library Journal, January 2009:
“This well-written and smoothly plotted story, with fully realized characters, will certainly appeal to mystery lovers.”
Review, The New York Times Book Review, February 15, 2009:
"Not many authors are equally successful at writing books for adults and children, but Carl Hiaasen seems to have made an effortless transition ... The ingenious plotting makes SCAT more engrossing than either of its predecessors."
About the Author
CARL HIAASEN was born and raised in Florida. He writes a column for the Miami Herald and is the author of many bestselling novels including Bad Monkey, Star Island, and Nautre Girl.
His books for younger readers include the Newbery Honor winner Hoot, as well as Flush, Scat, and Chomp. Skink—No Surrender was Hiaasen's first book for teens and features one of his most iconic characters, the reclusive ex-governor of Florida now known as Skink.
You can read more about Hiaasen's work at carlhiaasen.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
The day after their field trip to the Black Vine Swamp, something mysterious happens. Mrs. Starch doesn't come back, and she is never absent, and people start to wonder. While there might be a scrawled note and a message on her answering machine that states that she has had to deal with a family emergency, people, especially Nick and Marta, aren't buying it.
They are all convinced that Smoke, the kid in Mrs. Starch's class that she dislikes the most, has something to do with her disappearance.
In a whirlwind adventure filled with arson, endangered animals, the Iraq war, the Florida wet lands, a money hungry wannabe oil rigger, and panther poop, Nick and Marta set out to find their missing biology teacher.
Carl Hiaasen definitely has a knack for adventure. Every story he creates always has some crazy plot that makes you think as well as laugh! In this case, Hiaasen poses the problem of destroying the environment for monetary gain and how it affects the ecosystem in a hilarious manner. He also throws in some other great themes to think about: not judging people by their history/the way they look, believing in yourself and never giving up, learning to live with what you've got, and working as a team.
These themes are so important for younger readers (and sometimes older!) to learn, and Hiaasen did such a great job of incorporating them into the book without blatantly stating them. While this book has more of a middle-grade audience, it is great for all ages of readers, although there is a tad bit of language. Overall, I think the book was masterfully written and was a worthwhile and entertaining read.
Reviewed by: Tasha
I admire Carl Hiaasen's messages, story-telling ability, and writing skill as expressed in Scat. While the story is slightly gentler than what an adult version might read like, Scat doesn't talk down to younger readers. Instead, Mr. Hiaasen assumes that all his readers are caring, concerned, idealistic, and dedicated to doing the right thing. We need more books like this one.
In weaving his tale, Mr. Hiaasen shares a point of view that what seems to separate us is less important than what should draw us together: Selfish, inappropriate desires drive us apart and everything else is good glue. The book is populated by selfish people (both present and not present, but referred to) and people who find that their concern for others (including all the animals) is greater than their concern for their immediate comfort.
If you aren't in favor of protecting endangered species when you start Scat, you may well become one after reading this story. In addition, you'll realize that you can play a role in helping: You just have to reach out to find and do something useful.
Teachers will love the way that Scat shows that teachers can be better and worse than their students and administrators. Students may learn not to judge teachers too quickly by their appearances and mannerisms in the classroom. I didn't learn that lesson until I was almost 16 when I had a teacher who was terrific to and for me, but whose quirks made her a source of humor for many of my classmates. I honor to this day what Mrs. Verna L. Reynolds did for me. In some ways, she could have served as a prototype for Mrs. Starch (don't you love that name?) in the book. I wish I could share this book with her, but she's passed on to a better place.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The school setting and the stern teacher who disappears on a field trip will appeal to young readers. I particularly liked the sub plot with the Iraqi veteran. It added a timely dimension to the story.
I live in Florida and I have actually seen a Florida panther in the wild. They are very rare, and you really feel special if you get the chance to see one. If you live anywhere and love wildlife, you will love this story!
Scat follows the story of Nick and Marta, two high school students, who are in Mrs. Starch's biology class. Mrs. Starch is legendary as the strictest teacher in the school, with a singular focus on teaching biology. One day, she takes her biology classes on a vacation to a local swamp. While they are there, a mysterious swamp fire stars, forcing the trip to an abrupt end. After the students return to school, they realize that Mrs. Starch has not returned. The next day, principal reassures the students that Mrs. Starch had to leave due to a family emergency, but this excuse does not sit well with Nick. First of all, he is not aware of Mrs. Starch having any family, and also she had been previously threatened by Dwayne "Smoke" Scrod, a rebellious student who had a run-in with her.
Nick decided to investigate Mrs. Starch's disappearance and brings Marta along to help. They begin by visiting her house on the outskirts of town, but are chased away by a mysterious man named Twilly Spree. Although they (as well as the police) suspect Smoke to be involved with Mrs. Starch's disappearance, Nick is baffled when Smoke suddenly visits to borrow his biology book. To further this improbable connection, Smoke seeks out Nick to tell Nick that he is innocent as he runs from the police who have come to apprehend him at school. Nick and Marta's search for Mrs. Starch adds a new dimension as they try to figure out if Smoke was telling the truth.
Then of course, there is the environmental element. A man named Drake McBride from a rich family is determined to prove to his father that he is not a total failure, even though everything he has ever done suggests this. He stakes out a claim to drill for oil, then comes up with a scheme to make money from the government even though his claim has not panned out. However, he runs against obstacles as his project is repeatedly sabotaged and his employees have strange things happen to them.
Like all of Carl Hiaasen's books, Scat is filled with a variety of eccentric characters. Nick and Marta are the regular people, who get sucked into the plot to help save the environment. Drake McBride is funny, with his faux Texas cowboy act, while Dr. Dressler, the principal of Nick and Marta's school, is a stereotypical administrator who is solely out to cover his own butt when anything goes wrong. The list goes on, with the Scrod family (including a rich grandmother), Dr. Waxmo, a very strange substitute teacher, and of course Mrs. Starch.
The plot of Scat moves very quickly, as Hiaasen weaves in various subplots, such as Nick's father serving in Iraq and Nick's fascination with the Florida panther. Hiaasen also takes care to help readers picture the Florida setting he cares so much about. It adds up to a thoroughly interesting novel.
It all begins when Mrs. Bunny Starch, feared Biology teacher, disappears during a school field trip to the Black Vine Swamp -- where an illegal and undercover oil-drilling operation is taking place. Mrs. Starch regularly embarrasses and intimidates her students, so there's no shortage of suspects who may have had a hand in her disappearance.
It's up to two adventurous students -- Nick and Marta -- to solve the mystery. They must navigate a web of weird characters -- an eccentric eco-avenger, a juvenile delinquent named Smoke, a crooked oil prospector, and an endangered Florida panther -- in order to solve the mystery.
SCAT is a page-turner with heart, humor, and adventure. A good book for both boys and girls, filled with the kind of wacky characters with which Hiaasen has built his career.
You might consider checking out the film version of Hoot (New Line Platinum Series), too. Enjoy!
Author of CLAWS available for 80 Cents
I found the book to be very entertaining. It was my first book by Carl Hiaasen and now I am intrigued to read more. I am currently working my way through Hoot and I have a new appreciation for the humor now that I have read Scat.
The story is centered around the disappearance of Mrs. Starch while on a field trip and the miraculous change that occurs in the class deliquent, Smoke. Throw in a shady oil company and their illegal drilling operation and the mysterious woodsman on a search for panther poop and you begin to understand the book a little.
I think this book is more appropriate for older readers (11-15 years old). There was some mild language and scenes (a naked man is found painted orange and glued to a tree) that might be inappropriate for younger readers. Additionally, there is some criminal activity (the theft of drilling equipment) that is made to seem allowable since it is done in the name of ecology.
I certainly hope that Mr. Hiaasen will continue to write books for students. They are perfect for encouraging reluctant readers to begin a love of reading.
My son only made it through the whole book because we were listening to it as an audiobook (he said it was "OK" but without the enthusiasm he usually has about most of the audiobooks we listen to).
The tone of the book was too heavy...too moralistic. I think the author started out with some good intentions of things he wanted kids to think about (for example, environmental conservation and what the experience is like for a child whose father has been wounded in the Iraq war). However, too much of the novel came off like it was trying to teach lessons rather than just be an enjoyable story. A lot of different ideas all got bundled together into a story with very extreme characters (like bad guys who were unrealistically too bad) and implausible scenarios. I listened to the audiobook in the car with my son...and, frankly, I was relieved when it was over.
Sorry, I just can't recommend this one.
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