The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

The_True_Blue_Scouts_of_Sugar_Man_SwampWritten by Kathi Appelt


Setting

The Bayou Tourterelle of West Texas, also known as Sugar Man Swamp.

Characters

  • Bingo, a raccoon. Loves going on missions as one of the newest Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp. Can’t help but climb tall trees.
  • J’miah, a raccoon, and Bingo’s sister. Likes to keep the scout headquarters, (a vine-covered, abandoned car in the bayou) clean and tidy. Afraid of heights.
  • Chap Brayburn, human boy. Lives in the backroom of the Paradise Pies Cafe with his mother, selling sugar pies made from the rattlesnake-infested wild cane brake that grows nearby. Believes the stories his recently deceased grandfather Audie Brayburn told him about seeing the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and the Sugar Man in the bayou.
  • Sonny Boy Beaucoup, adult male human, legal landowner of the Bayou Tourterellle (a.k.a. Sugar Man Swamp), and Chap’s landlord.
  • Jaeger Stitch, adult female human, World Champion Gator Wrestler of the Northern Hemisphere and Sonny Boy’s new business partner.
  • Buzzie, Clydine, and their young litter of seventeen feral hogs. Consume or destroy everything in their path. On a journey to find some sugar cane.
  • The Sugar Man. Cousin to Sasquatch and Yeti, and as old as the swamp itself. Has been asleep for the past sixty years.
  • Gertrude, a rattlesnake.

This book has a unique folkloric feel, interesting characters and a strong setting. Kathi Appelt’s porch-sitting storyteller-style narration is one of the most striking things about this book, and this is mostly good. I read it silently but I believe the strong narration would make this a great book to read out loud or have read to you. Although the narrative voice is for the most part endearing and clever, it is at times almost distracting or even belittling to the story. This reader would have felt fine without being randomly and ironically addressed as a “sports fan” or “young grasshopper” so many times. This is a minor quibble for what is mostly great storytelling, and it is unclear to me whether younger readers/listeners will feel as patronized or distracted by the narration as I felt at certain moments.

This was a fun book with some beautiful writing, unique characters both human and animal, adventure, and a good dose of humor. It could serve as a lighter-hearted companion to last year’s The One and Only Ivan, and also might be a good recommendation for fans of Kate DiCamillo’s books or even Charlotte’s Web.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Digital Resources Librarian, Granite School District
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-8 (and possibly younger if read out-loud or audiobook)

Author Website: kathiappelt.com

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Written by Kathi Appelt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
326 pages
Release Date: July 23, 2013
ISBN: 9781442421059 (hardcover)

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