The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (by Kathi Appelt: Juvenile Fiction) © 2013

Rating: 4/5

Summary: Bingo and J’miah (two raccoon brothers) have been entrusted with the job of keeping a sharp eye on the Sugar Man Swamp every night.  These true blue scouts know that in the case of any approaching danger they must alert the Sugar Man—a Bigfoot-like creature who has been living in the swamp for over 300 years. When Bingo and J’miah discover that a horde of feral hogs is determined to invade the swamp, they know that they must go into the deepest, darkest part of the swamp, bypass Gertrude, the giant rattlesnake who guards the Sugar Man, and get his help. Will Bingo and J’miah get there in time? How will they awaken the Sugar Man, who has been sleeping for 60 years? Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn (a human) is trying to sort through some troubles of his own. Chap’s grandfather has just passed away and Chap misses him terribly. To make matters worse, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, the richest man in town, has threatened to shut down Paradise Pies Café—the coffee shop (famous for its deep-fried sugar pies) in Sugar Man Swamp run by Chap and his mother.  In fact, Sonny Boy is determined to bulldoze the entire swamp in order to turn the land into a theme park whose main attraction is the female alligator wrestler, Jaeger Stitch. Will Chap find a way to save the family business? How will Chap be able to halt the ruin of the swamp he loves so much? He, also, desperately needs the help of the Sugar Man.

Review:  In The True Blue Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp, Kathi Appelt has created a modern Tall Tale that can be enjoyed by the entire family. The story is written in a Southern, folksy twang, with the narrator assuming the easy banter of an Uncle Remus-type storyteller spinning yarns for your entertainment. For the first few chapters, the story tends to jump around a bit, for there are more than the average number of major characters in this tale and it takes some background explanation to get the story off the ground.  This might cause some confusion for younger readers who are used to a more linear storyline. However, once the plot gets moving, the reader is in for a funny, whimsical ride as the animals and the humans (and the Sugar Man!) strive to save their beloved swamp. The story will appeal to kids who love to read animal fiction, but provides more than enough human characters to include readers who like to root for the human underdogs. This book can be enjoyed in print, and would make a terrific listen for any family going on a car trip. (The audiobook is narrated by Lyle Lovett.) Intended for readers 8 – 12 years of age; (3rd – 7th grade).

Read-a-likes:  American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborn; Tales of Uncle Remus by Julius Lester; Hoot by Carl Hiassen; Poppy by Avi

Availability:  This book is available from the Lake Bluff Library’s Juvenile Fiction collection (print) as well as the Lake Bluff Library’s Juvenile Audiobook collection.

Reviewed by: Regina

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