Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

You guys. I just read the most whack-a-do book in the entire world and I loved everything about it.

 
So you've got two raccoon brothers, out on their own for the first time as sworn protectors and early warning detectors for the Sugar Man Swamp. They live in the rusted out shell of an old car with a radio that only works when lightening strikes and spend their nights (raccoons are nocturnal, duh) trying to figure out exactly what being a scout means. A few miles out of the swamp is Chap, a 12 year old boy who learned to love the swamp from his grandfather and now needs a literal boat full of cash to save his mother's bakery from a greedy land developer.

Then there's Sonny, said greedy land developer who, with a world renown alligator wrestler, wants to pave over the entire swamp and turn it into an alligator wrestling theme park. Out in Louisiana, and making their way towards the Sugar Man Swamp as fast as they can (rumble, rumble, rumble) is a pack of the biggest, meanest, most wild, wild hogs the world has ever seen. They've heard rumors of the sweet cane break sugar that gives the swamp it's name and they'll stop at nothing (except the occasional mud hold) to gobble it all up.

And of course there's the Sugar Man himself, the living breathing embodiment of the swamp. A great mythical creature, a distant relative of the Yeti. Sugar Man is old and tired though, and he's been asleep for 40 years, curled up deep in the swamp with his rattlesnake best friend, secure in the knowledge that his scouts will warn him of any potential danger.

As all of these forces converge on the swamp, Appelt deftly weaves their separate plot lines into a charming and deceptively simple folk tale. It was announced yesterday that The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is on the long list for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and I can't think of anything I've read this year that deserves to be on the list more. I've never read any of Kathi Appelt's previous books, but before I even finished True Blue I put them all on hold.

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