fiction favorites…The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp cover imageThe True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt

From the rooftop of Information Headquarters, Bingo and J’miah stood on their back paws and watched Little Mama and Daddy-O trundle away…For as long as raccoons had inhabited the Sugar Man Swamp, which was eons, they had been the Official Scouts, ordained by the Sugar Man himself back in the year Aught One, also known as the Beginning of Time. Of course, Bingo and J’miah would follow the orders.
Bingo and J’miah weren’t ordinary Swamp Scouts. They were, in fact, Information Officers, a highly specialized branch of the Scout system. And because of this there were two additional orders:
*always heed the Voice of Intelligence, and 
*in the event of an emergency, wake up the Sugar Man

That's a pack of feral hogs!

That’s a pack of feral hogs!

The first additional order was easy enough…but the second was a different matter. The problem? Nobody really knew exactly where the Sugar Man slept…
The bigger problem? Waking the Sugar Man up wasn’t all that easy…
The biggest problem? What if he woke up cranky? Every denizen in the swamp knew that the wrath of the Sugar Man was something to avoid.

Bingo and J’miah are two young raccoon brothers, newly appointed to the honorable position of Swamp Scouts. That’s a heap of responsibility for these 1949DeSoto_01_700 from blog dot hemmings dot comboys.

Headquarters is, strangely enough, an old, 1949 Sportsman DeSoto, abandoned long ago among the vines and ferns and muck of the swamp, so utterly camouflaged that no one but the raccoons knows it’s there. From this post, Bingo and J’miah must keep an eye on the neighborhood.

In an overgrown swamp, what can there possibly be to keep an eye on except a lot of mosquitoes? You might think these boys have a mighty quiet job ahead of them.

But there’s where you’d be wrong. Because there’s a whole lot happening in the Sugar Man Swamp. Chap Brayburn and his mother are cooking up heaps of delectable fried sugar pies in a desperate effort to save their Paradise Pies Cafe.

Mmmmm. Sugar Fried Pies!

Mmmmm. Sugar Fried Pies!

Sonny Boy Beaucoup is conniving to get his hands on lots of land and lots of cash, and he’s being none too nice about it. And then there’s the ominous rumble-rumble-rumble sound that’s making the hairs stand up on Bingo and J’miah’s stripey tails. What on earth can that be?!

Throw in some alligator wrestling, a whole batch of nippy rattlers, some long lost Polaroid pictures, the Voice of Intelligence (what?!), a bad-tempered pack of feral hogs…mix these all together and you’ve got a major hullaballoo in swampland, my friends.

Kathi Appelt has conjured up an outstanding new place with a host of uncommon characters and a chronicled history, all of which come very much alive in these pages and win our hearts. There’s rollicking humor and wild adventure and zesty danger here, as well as a thread of poignancy to anchor us. There’s a marvelously complex web of  folks and their enterprises, all unknowingly barreling towards one grand mash-up. And there’s a swamp to save, with its rich habitat hanging in the balance. All of this is told in a delightful, folksy, storyteller’s voice,

An ivory billed woodpecker --pivotal to the plot.

An ivory billed woodpecker –pivotal to the plot.

with short (at times very, very short!) chapters that pop in on one scene, then switch to another locale, keeping us turning those pages to find out more.

I loved this story! For one thing, I loved the highly-original cast of characters, animal and human and even material — when have you read a book where a rusted out car, a rampaging hog, the voice on the radio, a mythical swamp creature, an over-the-top bizarre alligator wrestling champ, and a lonely boy — all co-star with some endearing raccoons? I loved the refreshing, upbeat, humorous tone as well.

Fantastic read-aloud for ages 5-100. Independent readers will need to be perhaps 9 or 10. Highly recommended. New in 2013 and the awards have just started rolling in for this one.