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Scat

A Florida class trip turns into a quest to save a panther and her cub.

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Scat, Carl Hiaasen’s new book for middle-graders, begins when Mrs. Bunny Starch and her students set out on a field trip to learn about Florida’s fauna and flora. By the book’s end, they’re fighting to save the state’s most threatened species, an elusive panther and her cub.

With his trademark rapid-fire style, Hiaasen fills this novel with suspense, humor, and oddball characters, human and animal. A Prius-driving man in a ski cap, a pet macaw that speaks three languages, and Duane, aka Smoke – a 16-year-old who sits in class chomping No. 2 pencils and was once accused of burning down a billboard – all are certain to draw young readers into the story.

And who wouldn’t appreciate a mystery in which wildfires blaze and bad guys get their comeuppance?

At the center of this novel is 14-year-old Nick, whose father, an injured National Guard soldier, returns from Iraq determined to pick up again on a life of fishing and playing baseball with his son. Intertwined with panther tracking in a foggy swamp and the search for a missing teacher, this soldier’s story is presented with compassion.

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