Scat

Scat

4.3 489
by Carl Hiaasen
     
 

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Bestselling author and columnist Carl Hiaasen returns with another hysterical mystery for kids set in Florida's Everglades.

Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, is missing. She disappeared after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. And, to be honest, the kids in her class are relieved.

But when the principal tries to tell the students

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Overview

Bestselling author and columnist Carl Hiaasen returns with another hysterical mystery for kids set in Florida's Everglades.

Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, is missing. She disappeared after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. And, to be honest, the kids in her class are relieved.

But when the principal tries to tell the students that Mrs. Starch has been called away on a "family emergency," Nick and Marta just don't buy it. No, they figure the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with her disappearance.

And he does! But not in the way they think. There's a lot more going on in Black Vine Swamp than any one player in this twisted tale can see. And Nick and Marta will have to reckon with an eccentric eco-avenger, a stuffed rat named Chelsea, a wannabe Texas oilman, a singing substitute teacher, and a ticked-off Florida panther before they really begin to see the big picture.

That's life in the swamp, kids.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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."

David Pogue
Not many authors are equally successful at writing books for adults and children, but Carl Hiaasen seems to have made an effortless transition…His latest, Scat, won't disappoint Hiaasenphiles of any age…the ingenious plotting makes Scat more engrossing than either of its predecessors. The characters are richer—two of them turn out to be not at all the caricatures they seemed at first. And even the title is a clever pun, referring both to the good guys' message to the bad guys, and to the panther droppings that hold a key to the mystery. In short, Hiaasen's novels for younger readers seem to be maturing right along with them.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Hiaasen reprises Hoot with a panther in the owl role, an oil company as the villain and a rich renegade named Twilly Spree as the outlaw environmentalist determined to save Florida from developers. The kid hero is Nick Waters, saintly son of a minor league pitching coach who joined the National Guard to augment a meager salary, wound up in Iraq and has come back badly injured. Nick's ample worries multiply after his science teacher disappears while on a field trip to the Black Vine Swamp. When Nick goes to the aid of a classmate suspected of involvement in the teacher's disappearance, he stumbles onto dangerous facts about the swamp: an endangered Florida panther has taken up residence, and an oil company has begun an illegal drilling operation. Nick is way too good to be true-he's more the son every parent dreams of-but Hiaasen's smooth writing, whacked-out humor and highly entertaining cast of oddball characters keep the plot clipping along. The achievement is in the underlying earnestness-formulaic or not, the story will move readers, and any kid who loved Hoot will like this. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Written in the tradition of Hoot and Flush, Carl Hiaasen's latest work again features concerned teens tackling environmental issues head-on and exposing a corrupt plot in the process. But the plot here begins unusually, with the disappearance of a much hated teacher from a field trip to Black Vine Swamp. Students Nick and Marta are convinced that Mrs. Starch's disappearance is not due a "family emergency," as the principal states. After all, Mrs. Starch has no family! And no one has seen the teacher since the class field trip ended abruptly, with a fire in the swamp sending the students back to school and Mrs. Starch into the swamp to retrieve one girl's lost inhaler. Soon, Nick and Marta are up to their eyes in a mystery as thick as swamp muck with a solution as elusive as a Florida panther. Their prime suspect, the class delinquent named Smoke, turns out to have nothing to do with the disappearance—and yet, he just might be the key to solving it all. The danger is greater than the sleuthing pair can guess, and the foes—representatives from a thieving energy company—more formidable. Fans of Hiaasen's earlier works will enjoy this, too; newcomers to the author may prefer to begin with Hoot. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

Once again, Hiaasen has written an edge-of-the-seat eco-thriller. When their unpopular biology teacher goes missing in a suspicious fire during a field trip to the Black Vine Swamp, Nick and Marta don't buy the headmaster's excuse for her absence and decide to do some investigating of their own. Eco-avengers; an endangered, hunted panther; illegal pipelines in the Everglades; and an underachieving student with the nickname "Smoke" all play a part in this gripping novel. From the first sentence, readers will be hooked. The teens' dangerous detective work, with help from some unlikely sources, and the ethics of environmental awareness are well balanced. The emotion and personal changes that Nick goes through due to his father's injury in Iraq are on their own a worthy study of the struggles that military families are facing today. This well-written and smoothly plotted story, with fully realized characters, will certainly appeal to mystery lovers.-Dylan Thomarie, Johnstown High School, NY

Kirkus Reviews
During a field trip to Black Vine Swamp, a suspicious "wildfire" breaks out, and much-feared and -reviled science teacher Mrs. Starch vanishes. The school gets a letter stating she is away on a "family emergency," but no one believes that. Nick Waters and his friend Marta Gonzales are sure bad-boy Duane "Smoke" Scrod, Jr., is to blame for both fire and disappearance. However, there's more to Duane, Mrs. Starch and the fire than Nick or Marta could ever imagine. This is Hiaasen Country, so the complications include a rare Florida panther, a crooked oil company, a tree-hugging Hayduke of a millionaire and a couple of well-meaning-but-not-as-swift-as-the-kids detectives. Hiaasen's third outing for young readers might be a little slow in pacing and the character types might be recognizable to experienced readers, but fans of Hoot and Flush (2002, 2005) will not be disappointed by this funny, believable, environmentally friendly tween thriller. (Thriller. 10-15)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375834875
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
04/27/2010
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
40,714
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

The day before Mrs. Starch vanished, her third-period biology students trudged silently, as always, into the classroom. Their expressions reflected the usual mix of dread and melancholy, for Mrs. Starch was the most feared teacher at the Truman School.

When the bell rang, she unfolded stiffly, like a crane, and rose to her full height of nearly six feet. In one hand she twirled a sharpened Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, a sure sign of trouble to come.

Nick glanced across the aisle at Marta Gonzalez. Her brown eyes were locked on Mrs. Starch, and her thin elbows were planted like fence posts, pinning her biology book open to Chapter 8. Nick had left his own textbook in his locker, and his palms were sweating.

"Good morning, people," said Mrs. Starch, in a tone so mild that it was chilling. "Who's prepared to tell me about the Calvin cycle?"

Only one hand rose. It belonged to Graham, who always claimed to know the answers but never did. Mrs. Starch hadn't called on him since the first week of class.

"The Calvin cycle," she repeated. "Anybody?"

Marta looked as if she might throw up again. The last time that had happened, Mrs. Starch had barely waited until the floor was mopped before instructing Marta to write a paper listing five major muscles used in the act of regurgitation.

Nick and the other students had been blown away. What kind of teacher would punish a kid for puking?

"By now," Mrs. Starch was saying, "the photosynthetic process should be familiar to all of you."

Marta gulped hard, twice. She'd been having nightmares about Mrs. Starch, who wore her dyed blond hair piled to one side of her head, like a beach dune. Mrs. Starch's school wardrobe never varied: a polyester pants suit in one of four faded pastel colors, and drab brown flats. She painted heavy violet makeup on her eyelids, yet she made no effort to conceal an odd crimson mark on her chin. The mark was the shape of an anvil and the subject of wild speculation, but nobody had gotten up the nerve to ask Mrs. Starch about it.

Marta's eyes flicked miserably toward Nick, then back to the teacher. Nick was fond of Marta, although he wasn't sure if he liked her enough to sacrifice himself to Mrs. Starch, who had begun to pace. She was scanning the class, selecting a victim.

A droplet of perspiration glided like a spider down Nick's neck. If he worked up the courage to raise his hand, Mrs. Starch would pounce swiftly. Right away she'd see that he had forgotten his biology book, a crime that would be forgiven only if Nick was able to explain and then diagram the Calvin cycle, which was unlikely. Nick was still struggling to figure out the Krebs cycle from Chapter 7.

"Plants, as we all know, are vital to human existence," said Mrs. Starch, on patrol. "And without the Calvin cycle, plants could not exist. Could not exist_._._."

Graham was waving his arm and squirming like a puppy. The rest of the class prayed that Mrs. Starch would call on him, but she acted as if he were invisible. Abruptly she spun to a halt at the front of Marta's row.

Marta sat rigidly in the second desk, behind a brainy girl named Libby who knew all about the Calvin cycle--all about everything--but seldom made a peep.

"The chart on page 169," Mrs. Starch went on, "makes it all plain as day. It's an excellent illustration, and one that you are likely to encounter on a test. Quite likely_._._."

Marta lowered her head, a tactical mistake. The movement, slight as it was, caught Mrs. Starch's attention.

Nick sucked in a breath. His heart raced and his head buzzed, because he knew that it was now or never. Marta seemed to shrink under Mrs. Starch's icy gaze. Nick could see tears forming at the corners of Marta's eyes, and he hated himself for hesitating.

"Come on, people, snap out of your coma," Mrs. Starch chided, tapping the pencil on Libby's desk. "The Calvin cycle?"

The only reply was a ripping noise--Marta's trembling elbows, tearing holes in the pages of her book.

Mrs. Starch frowned. "I was hoping for a sea of hands," she said with a disappointed sigh. "But, once again, it seems I'll have to pick a volunteer. An unwilling volunteer_._._."

As the teacher pointed her pencil at the top of Marta's head, Nick raised his hand.

I'm toast, he thought. She's gonna crush me like a bug.

Lowering his eyes, he braced to hear Mrs. Starch call his name.

"Oh, Duane?" she sang out.

Great, Nick thought. She forgot who I am.

But when he looked up, he saw the teacher aiming her pencil at another kid on the other side of the classroom. The mean old bird had totally faked him out, and Marta, too.

The other kid's name really was Duane, and Nick had known him since elementary school, when he was two years ahead of Nick and known as Duane the Dweeb. One summer, Duane the Dweeb grew five inches and gained thirty-one pounds, and from then on everybody called him Smoke, because that's what he wanted to be called. Some kids said it was because he was a pyro.

"So, Duane," Mrs. Starch said sweetly. "Have you finished Chapter 8?"
Rumpled and sleepy-looking, Smoke grunted and raised his eyes toward the teacher. Nick couldn't see his expression, but the slump of his shoulders suggested a profound lack of interest.

"Duane?"

"I guess I read it, yeah."

"You guess?" Using a thumb and two fingers, Mrs. Starch spun the yellow pencil into a blur, like a miniature airplane propeller. Under less stressful circumstances it would have been entertaining.

"I read so much," Smoke said, "I forget which is which."

Several students struggled to smother giggles.

Marta reached across the aisle, nudged Nick, and mouthed the words "Thank you."

Nick felt his face redden.

"For raising your hand," Marta whispered.

Nick shrugged. "No big deal," he whispered back.

Mrs. Starch moved across the classroom and positioned herself beside Smoke's desk. "I see you brought your biology book today," she said.

"That's progress, Duane."

"I guess."

"But you'll find that it's much easier to read when it's not upside down." Mrs. Starch rotated the textbook, using the eraser end of her No. 2 pencil.

Smoke nodded. "Yeah, that's better."

He tried to flip open the book, but Mrs. Starch pressed down firmly with the pencil, holding the cover closed.

"No peeking," she said. "Tell me how the Calvin cycle produces sugar from carbon dioxide, and why that's so important to photosynthesis."

"Gimme a minute." Smoke casually began to pick at a nasty-looking zit on his meaty, fuzz-_covered neck.

Mrs. Starch said, "We're all waiting," which was true. The other students, including Nick and Marta, were on the edge of their seats.

They were aware that something major and possibly legendary was about to occur, though they had no clue that within forty-eight hours they would each be questioned by sheriff's deputies and asked to tell what they'd seen and heard.

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