Wednesday, March 06, 2013


My six-year-old and I enjoyed Kathi Appelt's delightfully folksy tall-tale adventure about two raccoons and a twelve-year-old boy who try (separately) to save their beloved swamp from forces threatening it. The Sugar Man, guardian of the swamp, who has been sleeping for centuries, must be woken up. But how?

Bingo and J'miah are the youngest True Blue Scouts, an order of raccoons who serve the Sugar Man. They receive messages from the unpredictable radio in an old car, but they long for a more adventurous role in the Scouts. Their chance comes when a marauding pack of wild hogs is headed straight for the sugar cane. Only the Sugar Man can save the swamp from those frenzied tusks. Chap Brayburn and his mother run Paradise Pies Cafe, selling delicious sugar pies made from the local cane, but their landlord is Sonny Boy Beaucoup, an unscrupulous man with plans to pave over the swamp to make Alligator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park, along with alligator-wrestling legend Jaeger Stitch. Chap's late grandfather had told Chap tales of the Sugar Man and of an elusive endangered bird living in the swamp - if Chap can prove the existence of either, surely the swamp can be saved.

This is a long book to read aloud, but my daughter and I were both riveted. The folksy, tall-tale tone of the book lends itself beautifully to many an evening reading aloud, and the story, propelled in different directions by memorable characters, keeps the pages turning by themselves. I can feel myself starting to drawl as I write about this book. Besides the charming story, the deft handling of multiple points of view, and the highly unlikely events that somehow seem possible, the messages are lovely. Some things are more important than money. Loyalty is a good thing. Help others when you can. THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP feels like an instant classic that children will love to hear and adults will love to read out loud.

Available July 23.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher.

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