I have said it before: I don't love animal stories. I was pretty excited about The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt despite that, and not only because I heard wonderful things about it from others. No. It was because of the raccoons on the cover. See, I've always had a thing for raccoons. They were my favorite animal growing up. They began my love with rascally thieves really. And this book features a pair of adorable rascally (rascally adorable?) raccoon brothers.
Raccoon brothers Bingo
and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp
Scouts. The opportunity to serve the Sugar Man—the massive creature who
delights in delicious sugar cane and magnanimously rules over the
swamp—is an honor, and also a big responsibility, since the rest of the
swamp critters rely heavily on the intel of these hardworking Scouts.
Chap Brayburn is not a member of any such organization. But he loves
the swamp something fierce, and he’ll do anything to help protect it.
help is surely needed, because world-class alligator wrestler Jaeger
Stitch wants to turn Sugar Man swamp into an Alligator World Wrestling
Arena and Theme Park, and the troubles don’t end there. There is also a
gang of wild feral hogs on the march, headed straight toward them all.
Scouts are ready. All they have to do is wake up the Sugar Man. Problem
is, no one’s been able to wake that fellow up in a decade or four…
Bingo and J'miah were just as wonderful as I had hoped. Appelt gave them endearing personalities and maintained their raccoon nature perfectly at the same time. I loved how they were so different and yet the bond of their brotherhood was strong enough to keep them together through all of their adventures. In addition to the raccoons, I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Sweetums the cat. I wish there had been more of Sweetums. He didn't get nearly enough page time. The humans in the story were not as likeable for me. I can't believe I am saying this, but I would have preferred this story without them. (What is wrong with me? I may need to lay down.)
The swamp setting was well done. I could feel the humidity, the annoying mosquitoes, and hear the sounds of the night. I felt like I was there.
The style of the writing is brilliant in many ways. It flows well and Appelt used a variety of sentence structures to give the story a perfect rhythm. This will make an outstanding read aloud. One troubling aspect for me was the narrator talking to me. I understand why that was done given this has the feel of a spoken folk tale. But still. Nothing is going to throw me out of a story faster than that. I was also annoyed by the use of the term "we". I could never quite figure out if the narrator was referring to me in that we or if they were using it in the royal sense.
This is a fun tale and great to give to the young animal lovers in your life. (Or to read aloud to them, because really truly it will make a spectacular read aloud.)