True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Author: Appelt, Kathi
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Year Published: 2013
Plot: Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp. The swamp is in about to be overrun by wild hogs and evil businessman Sonny Boy, who wants to turn the swamp into an amusement park. The raccoons have to find and wake the giant Sugar Man, the only creature who can stop these problems. Meanwhile a twelve year old boy named Chap Brayburn is trying to stop Sonny Boy on his own, while remembering his late grandfather who loved the swamp. The story switches between Chap and the raccoons repeatedly, but linking them in events. Without each other’s unknown activities, the Sugar Man would never have woken up, and the swamp wouldn’t have been saved.
Learned/Observations: Appelt tells the story in brief and long chapters featuring a few characters at a time. Her folksy and tall-tale style makes it perfect for aloud readings between parents and children. She adopted the native slang and incorporated it into the story and names of the characters, keeping the bayou theme running throughout the tall-tale. She also describes how different species interact with each other in almost human ways, how fragile the swamp’s ecosystem is, the damage non-native animals can do to an environment, and the importance of conservation. Appelt links things that at first seem inconsequential to the structure of the story. A perfect example is the raccoon’s headquarters, which turns out to be the Desoto car, which also holds important photographs that could save the swamp. While I’m not really interested in children’s books, I can appreciate how she links a chain of events together and makes the irrelevant things relevant. It’s an important skill to have when a story needs a twist. I can see myself starting new stories with this book in mind, or whenever my work needs a twist.