Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Environmental Book Club

I felt that at some point I needed to try a Carl Hiaasen novel for this book club, because he has a green rep. So I snatched up Scat when I saw it at a library.

Scat is about two students who become involved in the give and take between an oil company trying to steal oil in a Florida swamp and what might be described as an eco-terrorist trying to save endangered panthers living there. The book follows the big, bad company vs. small-time good guys formula that we've seen in another environmental book for young readers, Operation Redwood. This formula turns up in a lot of movies and TV shows relating to the environment, too. We could call them David and Goliath stories.

My question: Will I ever be able to find an environmental story for kids that doesn't follow either this pattern or the dystopian future brought about by human-made environmental disaster convention?  Stay tuned.

Scat's structure is significant because it involves point of view switches, a lot of them. The most interesting character, for me, was not either of the two kids who are the leads. I wish the book had been about Duane Scrod, Jr., who has been held back in biology for two years. He is not your traditional children's book/YA protagonist, and, as I said, he's not the protagonist here. Duane, known as Smoke, becomes interested in environmental science, because he recognizes that if the Black Vine Swamp changes, there won't be a place for people like him, people who are part of that environment.

Most of the characters in Scat experience the Black Vine Swamp from a distance. For the main characters, it appears to be just a school field trip destination. Smoke is what I'm looking for in eco-fiction, someone who is immersed in an environment. Could someone like him be the jumping off point for an environmental book?

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