International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Young Fiction Reviews
Nick and Marta are
school friends in small town Florida and are somewhat terrorised by
the evil Mrs Starch of the biology class. She seems to pick on everyone
and completely humiliates Smoke - aka Duane Scrod junior who eats her
pencil and swallows it! All the kids are wary of Smoke because hes
a pyro freak and has the strangest father with talking birds who speak
by Carl Hiaasen
Orion Books Hardback £9.99
ISBN: 978 1-84255- 774- 7
Pub: Oct 1st 2009
Sam North review
closely in the footsteps of his environmental kids' thriller Hoot,
Carl Hiaasen plunges once again into the murky waters of the Everglades
and a species under threat. This time in SCAT its an endangered
panther and the only evidence it is exists is some panther poop
in the glades.
Nicks father is in Iraq serving with the National Guard, another
classmate Libbys father is with the Sherriffs office. When
theres a field trip to the glades and Black Vine Swampand it's
suddenly set on fire and Mrs Starch goes missing suspicion naturally
falls on Smoke. Has he done something terrible to Mrs Starch? The fire
department certainly thinks so, and the fact that hes missing
that night only confirms it. Nick may even have him on video sulking
around the swamp.
Theres a suspicious message from Mrs Starch to say she had family
problems but the headmaster Mr Dressler knows that she has no family.
He hires a completely mad teacher to cover her classes who will only
read one page in the book and it's the wrong book. No one in Nick's
class is happy.
Meanwhile Nicks father is returned from Iraq with his arm missing
and Nick feel obliged to give up using his right arm and try to use
his left in sympathy. He is deeply affected by his father's wounds.
When Nick and Marta try to play detective and discover what really happened
to Mrs Starch they are kidnapped by a beret wearing weird eco-warrior
driving her car and told to stop looking for their teacher, or else!
Meanwhile oilmen are secretly drilling in the glades for oil and shooting
at rare panthers. Then there's the Smoke's father who has a battle with
the taxman who makes off with his son's schoolbag. How odd is that?
is accused of setting the forest fire and the proof is his schoolbag
found in the glades with a blowtorch in it. The cops come calling at
school and Smoke does a runner, insisting to Nick that he is innocent.
How Mrs Starch, her kidnapper, Smoke, Nick and Marta connect is the
subject of this fast paced environmental thriller and its fun, often
surprising, with lots of very eccentric teachers and pretty smart kids.
You will also learn a lot about biology and panthers along the way.
Carl Hiaasen knows his Florida and the Everglades really well and any
reader 10 and up will really thrill to this topical adventure.
© Sam North September 16th '09
Editor of Hackwriters and author of Mean
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