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Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Scat
b
y Carl Hiaasen

Publishing Information: Knopf: New York, 2009
ISBN: 9780375834868 / 9780375834875 (PB) / 9780739371282 (Audio)
Pages
: 384 p.
Ages: 9 & Up

Annotation:
While on a field trip in a Florida wildlife preserve, Nick and Marta decide to investigate when a mysterious fire starts and their unpopular teacher disappears.

Summary:
Mrs. Starch is the meanest and most disliked teacher at Truman School, a private school in south Florida. No one was spared her ridicule.  Mrs. Starch especially disliked Duane Scrod Jr., AKA, Smoke. After berating him for not answering a question and assigning a humiliating essay on pimples, Duane calmly bit off the end of the pencil that she was waving in his face, chewed and swallowed it and left the class. The following day on a field trip to the Black Vine Swamp, a mysterious fire erupted and the children were hustled on the bus. Mrs. Starch went back to retrieve a student’s inhaler and then disappeared.  Smoke had not gone on the trip but was the prime suspect in the fire as he had started other fires in the past. But classmates Nick and Marta don’t believe that Smoke is the culprit so they set off on their own investigation and wind up in the midst of a criminal enterprise where their lives are definitely in danger.

Book Talk:
Mrs. Starch was the most hated and feared teacher in the Truman School. Students would break out in cold sweats whenever they had to enter her class. She expected her students to be fully prepared and woe to anyone who she called on who was not. 

She was merciless in her discipline and punishments as well. One day Marta was so nervous that she vomited right in class and just after the floor was mopped up Mrs. Starch instructed her to write a paper listing five major muscles used in the act of regurgitation. No one was spared her ridicule.  Her favorite target was Duane Scrod Jr. alias Smoke. Truman was a private school whose student body consisted of mostly wealthy and educated families. There were some scholarships for the more needy students but Smoke was not one of them. His tuition was paid for by his wealthy grandmother but his home life was far from luxurious. He was out of place at Truman and he was very intimidating, even though he kept mostly to himself. He had an aura of meanness. Very scary. Mrs. Starch called on him to answer a question but Smoke was more concerned with one of the pimples on his face. Since he could not perform to her liking, Mrs. Starch assigned him to write a very humiliating 500 word essay on pimples.  She got right up into his face; pointing her pencil at him. Smoke told her to back off or she’d be sorry. She refused and Smoke calmly bit off the end of her pencil, chewed and swallowed it, and left the class. The other students were stunned. They were hoping there would be no further incidences on the class field trip the next day to Black Vine Swamp. To their relief, Smoke was not in attendance. As the day progressed, an emergency arose. A mysterious fire erupted right in the area where the students were gathering samples and everyone had to report back to the bus. But one student left her inhaler in the swamp. Mrs. Starch volunteered to retrieve it while everyone returned to school. And then Mrs. Starch disappeared.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Environmental Issues
Field Trips
Mysteries
Oil Industry and Trade
Panthers
Wildlife Conservation

Awards & Reviews:
Connecticut Nutmeg Award Nominee, 2012
Georgia Children's Book Award Nominee, 2012
Illinois Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee, 2011
Indiana Young Hoosier Award Nominee, 2012
Iowa Teen Award Nominee & Winner, 2011
International Reading Association Children's Choices, 2010
Kansas William Allen White Award Nominee, 2012
Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2010
Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Nominee, 2011
New Hampshire Great Stone Face Award Nominee, 2010
"North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee, 2011
Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Award Nominee, 2012
School Library Journal Best Books for Children, 2009
Skipping Stone Award Honor Book, 2009
South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2011
Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee, 2011

Booklist, November 1, 2008
Book Links, October 21, 2010
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
, February 1, 2009
Horn Book
, January, 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2008
New York Times Book Review, February 15, 2009
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 2008
School Library Journal, January 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, April 1, 2009

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What do you think of Mrs. Starch’s punishments for not being prepared for class? Does it fit the axiom; the punishment should match the crime? Why or why not? What do you think the consequences should be for not attending to class work? 
  2. Explain how Smoke’s statement, “Get outta my face, or you’ll be sorry” could be interpreted as either a threat or just an impulsive outburst. Give both sides.
  3. Do you think Smoke was responsible for lighting the fire to get back at Mrs. Starch for what happened in class? Give reasons.
  4. The police suspected Smoke for starting the fire. What facts did they have to support this supposition?
  5. Dr. Dressler posed a very insightful comment when he received Mrs. Starch’s letter.  What was the question? Make a prediction about what is happening or what did happen to Mrs. Starch.
  6. What do you think the Red Diamond Energy Corp. is doing in the swamp? Is it legal or illegal? Why? Give examples from the text.
  7. What do you think caused Smoke’s turnaround?
  8. Predict – who may be involved in the attack on Melton and the theft of the pipes?
  9. The man who found Nick and Marta in the house wore a black ski cap. In what other instances has this character come into the story?
  10. Who do you think Twilly is?
  11. What do you think is in the bottles the helicopter dropped?
  12. What do you think of Nick’s attempt to experience the handicap his father now faces? What do you think it says about his character?
  13. How would you characterize Drake McBride? List at least 5 adjectives and give examples from the text to support your choices.
  14. Should land and ecosystems be protected for endangered species or should human development (either residential or industrial) have more import? Give your reasons.
  15. The story had many different twists. Write an alternate ending using the twists as a guide.

Curriculum Tie-ins:
Science and English: 

Research endangered animals, either by state or region.  Information can be presented in various formats; power point presentations, articles for newspapers, persuasive arguments to be presented to congressional committees; debates; etc. 
Websites:
www.endangeredspecie.com
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/
http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/map.html
www.floridaconservation.org/panther
http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/#
http://www.nature.org/
http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/

Math:
Graph the animal’s population decline.

Art:
Make a wall mural depicting the animal’s decline geographically
 Make sculptures out of nature
Design a tee shirt promoting conservation and animal protection
http://www.lessonplanet.com/directory_articles/art_lesson_plans/13_July_2009/48/lesson_plans_using_objects_found_in_nature
http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/arts-and-culture/1129-earth-artists-using-nature-in-art-to-raise-environmental-awareness.html

Social Studies:
Research environmental groups such as Greenpeace; Sierra Club; Earthwatch, etc.
Discuss their impact on legislation, both national and global
http://www.nrdc.org/reference/environGroups.asp
http://www.webdirectory.com/Wildlife/

Related Websites:
Author's Website - http://www.carlhiaasen.com
Defenders of Wildlife: Florida Panther - http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/panther.php
Everglades National Park - http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm
The Florida Panther Society - http://www.panthersociety.org

National Wildlife Federation: Florida Panther - http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Mammals/Florida-Panther.aspx

Read-a-Likes:
Beardance by Will Hobbs, 2004
The Beasties
by William Sleator, 1997
The Big Burn
by Lesley Choyce, 1995
The Big Wander by Will Hobbs, 1992
The Bomb by Theodore Taylor, 1995
Cliffhanger
by Gloria Skurzynski, 1999
Flash Point
by Collard Sneed, 2006
Don't Tell Anyone
by Peg Kehret, 1994
The Hunted
by Gloria Skuzynski, 2000
Jaguar
by Roland Smith, 1997
Jackie's Wild Seattle
by Will Hobbs, 2002
The Last Lobo by Roland Smith
The Maze by Will Hobbs, 1998
The Missing 'Gator of Gumbo Limbo
by Jean Craighead George, 1992
Skullduggery by Pete Hautmann, 2007
Weirdo by Theodore Taylor, 1991

Non-fiction Titles
Endangered Species: Our Impact on the Planetby Malcolm Penny, 2002
Everglades
by Jean Craighead George, 1995
Florida Panthers: Struggle for Survival by William Caper, 2008
John Muir: Protecting and Preserving the Environment
by Henry Elliot, 2009
Saving the American Wilderness by Ann Malaspina, 1999
The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature by Donna Jackson, 2000

Other Books by the Author:
Tourist Season
, 1987
Double Whammy, 1989
Skin Tight
, 1990
Native Tongue, 1991
Strip Tease, 1993
Stormy Weather, 1995
Naked Come the Manatee, 1997
Lucky You, 1998
A Death in China, 1998
Powder Burn, 1998
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, 1998
Trap Line, 1998
Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, 1999
Sick Puppy, 2000
Basket Case, 2002
Hoot, 2002
(2004 RITBA Nominee)
Skinny Dip, 2004
Flush, 2005
Nature Girl, 2006
The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport, 2008
Star Island, 2010

About the Author:
Carl Hiaasen has been writing about Florida since his father gave him a typewriter at age six. Back then, he wrote hunt-and-peck stories about neighborhood kickball and softball games. Today, Hiaasen is the author of many bestselling novels, including Basket Case and Skinny Dip. Hiaasen's novels have been published in 29 languages, which is 28 more than he can read or write!

In addition to writing novels, Hiaasen also writes a newspaper column for The Miami Herald, and he has published two collections of his columns. How does he balance writing the newspaper columns and the novels? "Easy," Hiaasen said. "You write every waking hour and have no life. Actually, the jobs complement each other. In a place as wild as South Florida, true-life events are almost too big and too weird to be dealt with appropriately in a newspaper. The journalism feeds the imagination, which feeds the fiction. As for keeping a schedule, it's pretty simple: Two days a week I write for The Miami Herald, and the rest of the time I'm working on novels or magazine articles. Or fishing."

Hoot, Hiaasen's first novel for young readers, was the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Newbery Honor. The movie version of Hoot hit U.S. theaters May 2006.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair