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I thought I’d already reviewed Scat by Carl Hiaasen on this blog. It turns out I hadn’t. I have only reviewed Hoot and Chomp. I apologise for the omission, particularly as I’ve read Scat twice, once for my own pleasure, and once again to the children. We finished it this weekend, and they loved it.

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I wasn’t sure if I liked it so much, the first time I read it. I thought it was weaker than the other two I had read, but on re-reading it with the children I have changed my opinion and think it’s actually the strongest of the three we have read, although they’re all excellent.

Scat tells the story of Nick Waters, a teenage boy who is going through a rocky time at home. His father is in Iraq as a soldier.  When he comes home after a serious accident Nick and his mum have some major adjustments to make.

While this is happening, things are kicking off in school science lessons between Nick’s class mate, Duane Scrod Jr, a troubled young man, and the scary biology teacher, Mrs. Starch. Duane and Mrs. Scrod have an alarming stand off in lesson time, and when Mrs. Starch goes missing on a field trip to the local Black Vine Swamp and a fire breaks out, Duane is the chief suspect in terms of both the fire, and Mrs. Starch’s disappearance.

Nick and Marta have their own ideas about what happened, and are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The book is Hiaasen’s usual blend of compelling adventure story and environmental warning shot. It has moments of pure, laugh out out genius alongside some of the more serious elements of the book. Hiaasen pulls off a dazzling balancing act between the disparate elements of the narrative and its themes without losing the reader’s interest or enjoyment once.

The characters in this book are rich and wonderfully drawn. I loved Duane Scrod Sr. in particular, and the substitute teacher Dr. Wendell Waxmo had my children in paroxysms of delight. Hiaasen is such a gifted writer, and I am so glad that he has started writing for children.  Although the books are about teenagers, there is nothing in here that wouldn’t be suitable for older primary school readers and I would recommend it to boys and girls aged 8-12.

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