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The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp Hardcover – July 23, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Swamps provide great fodder for stories, and Newbery Honor Award–winning Appelt uses every inch of the Sugar Man Swamp—and its inhabitants—to tell her engaging tale. At the helm of the complex ecosystem is the Sugar Man, a gigantic, fur-covered cousin to the yeti and bigfoot, who rules benevolently but has been asleep for the past 60 years. He is to be woken, preferably with an offering of sugarcane, only in the case of an emergency. Bingo and J’Miah, two raccoons who live in an abandoned DeSoto car, are the official Sugar Man Swamp scouts, and it’s their job to alert him to impending danger. Meanwhile, on the edge of the Bayou Tourterelle, a 12-year-old boy named Chap has just lost his beloved grandfather, and he and his mother must raise a “whole boatload of cash” making sugar pies to prevent Sonny Boy Beaucoup and an alligator wrestler from developing a theme park on their home turf. On top of all that, there are wild hogs headed straight for the swamp—“rumble, rumble, rumble!” This delicious, richly detailed story is told in 104 short chapters, which swing the plot beautifully from one thread to the next and keep the action moving. Appelt’s omniscient third-person narration exudes folksy, homespun warmth while also feeling fresh and funny. A satisfying romp with plenty of memorable characters to root for—and some to boo. Illustrations to come. Grades 5-8. --Ann Kelley

Review

* "This delicious, richly detailed story is told in 104 short chapters, which swing the plot beautifully from one thread to the next and keep the action moving. Appelt’s omniscient third-person narration exudes folksy, homespun warmth while also feeling fresh and funny. A satisfying romp." (Booklist, STARRED REVIEW)

* "In a honeyed dialect, the omnipresent narrator directly engages readers, ricocheting between the hilarious human and critter dramas to a riotous finale. A rollicking, ripping tall tale with ecological subtext." (Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW)

“Kathi Appelt's amazing lyrical language with that perfect Southern cadence draws us deeper and deeper into the world of Sugar Man Swamp. Hilarious and heartfelt, Bingo and J'Miah draw you into their home, into the swamp and we care about each creature as though they are family.” (An NA, author of the Printz Award-winning and National Book Award finalist A Step from Heaven)

"Appelt 'nailed it.' She has weaved a delightful yarn with a cast of affable characters and somehow manages to make a rusted 1949 DeSoto in a Louisiana swamp a cozy home for two raccoon scouts--absolutely charming.” (Harry Bliss, New Yorker illustrator and illustrator of Diary of a Worm)

* "Told from the perspectives of animals and humans, Appelt’s (The Underneath) rollicking tall tale exposes the trouble brewing in Sugar Man swamp. The main concern of Bingo and J’miah, two raccoon Swamp Scouts, is the approaching brood of feral hogs, which could destroy the precious canebrake sugar used to make fried pies at the local Paradise Pies cafe. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Chap Brayburn, the cafe proprietor’s son, is worried about rich, horrible Sonny Boy Beaucoup, who wants to turn the swamp into the “Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park.” The swamp’s salvation may lie with the furry, bearlike Sugar Man, whose “hands were as large as palmetto ferns” and “feet were like small boats,” but finding and awakening him is no easy task. The book’s folksy narrative adds brightness and humor to the story as Appelt explores the swamp’s rich history, varied denizens, and current threats. Heroes and villains are drawn in bold strokes, but while there’s little doubt who will emerge victorious, finding out how events unfurl is well worth the read." (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW)

“Kathi Appelt’s prose rolls like swamp mist and molasses. A sweet and tangy American classic.” (Peter H. Reynolds, creator of The Dot and illustrator of Someday)

* “Appelt returns with a rich tale set deep in a Texas swamp, full of critters including gators, rattlesnakes, and feral hogs. Brothers Bingo and J’miah are true-blue scouts (raccoons) who have set up house in an abandoned old DeSoto, adorning it with their artwork and following orders from the Voice of Intelligence (actually the lightning-enabled car radio). The young raccoons are affable and easy to root for as they attempt to stop the gang of wild hogs intent on destroying their beloved Muscovado sugar cane…. Appelt has adeptly intertwined the folksy narrative of a tall tale with a perfect blend of adventure and mystery, all the while subtly bringing an ecological message to the surface.” (School Library Journal, July 2013, STARRED REVIEW)

“Kathi Appelt can tell a story. She has published over 30 children’s books, for everyone from toddlers to teenagers, and won awards, including a Newberry Honor, along the way. In “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp,” aimed at middle-grade readers, Appelt returns to the folksy narrative voice of her beloved picture book, “Bubba and Beau, Best Friends.” Her mastery of pacing and tone makes for wonderful reading aloud, even to children who would happily take on a relatively long novel on their own. There is music in her prose: ‘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.’…In short chapters, in a style reminiscent of “Holes” by Louis Sachar, Appelt tells a mythic tale with a rich cast of characters. And as in Carl Hiaasen’s “Hoot,” the threat of an impending environmental disaster moves the plot along…Appelt takes her readers to spy on a greedy land developer, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, who is plotting with Jaeger Stitch, the World Champion Gator Wrestler of the Northern Hemisphere (her signature move: kissing the defeated reptile on the lips) to implement a nefarious plan to create an adventure theme park on the land, destroying the swamp habitat. And if that isn’t enough excitement, a rampaging gang of huge wild hogs is headed in the direction of Sugar Man Swamp, wrecking everything in its path. ‘Mothers and fathers, lock your doors. Pull the covers up to your chinny chin chins. Head for the hills.’ All that’s missing is a soundtrack by T Bone Burnett. Appelt gracefully balances seemingly unrelated plotlines: the story of fearless Bingo and cautious J’Miah as they set forth on their quest for the Sugar Man, Chap’s determination to save his mother’s Paradise Pies Café and their home by earning a ‘boatload’ of cash, and Grandpa Audie’s swamp adventures…Even as the plot heats up, Appelt keeps the humor coming, as when Chap’s large ginger cat, Sweetums, tries to warn the household of impending disaster. Sadly, none of the humans understand his language, Catalin, and Sweetums runs off in a snit, dodges underneath the bed and starts grooming himself. Appelt ties up all these threads neatly in a triumphant and unexpected confrontation of good and evil. Will Bingo and J’Miah face their fears? Will Chap save his mother’s livelihood and their home? And where is the Sugar Man, anyway? Librarians often say that every book is not for every child, but “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp” is.” (The New York Times Book Review, July 14, 2013)

Some books for young readers perfectly capture childhood in a particular time and place.

A trackless swamp of "stinging pricker vines and high-pitched clouds of mosquitoes" could be a fetid place of malevolence and loss, as it was in Kathi Appelt's acclaimed 2008 novel, "The Underneath." But in her new book for young readers, "The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp" (Atheneum, 326 pages, $16.99), the same setting is shot through with rollicking good humor.

The scouts of the title are scrappy young raccoons, Bingo and J'miah, whose job it is to keep watch for a snoozing sasquatch called the Sugar Man and his gigantic pet rattlesnake, Gertrude. On the edge of the bayou, meanwhile, lives a 12-year-old named Chap who has been shrouded in "a big cloud of lonesome" since the death of his grandfather.

As the story opens, the boy is frantic to find a way to save his mother's cafe (specialty: fried sugar pies) from the rapacity of a female gator-wrestler and a bow-tied real-estate developer whose own grandfather—stay with me here—long ago signed a treaty in blood with the Sugar Man himself.

Bearing down on this colorful array of personalities is the Farrow Gang, a family of feral hogs that enjoys nothing so much as to crush and destroy. Feral hogs, the genial omniscient narrator explains, "usually travel in family groups called sounders. Isn't that a great word? 'Sounders'? We just love that. But do we love . . . the Farrow Gang? Friends, there is nothing to love there. Nothing." Ms. Appelt has a genius for causing disparate narrative elements to cohere suddenly and movingly, and her talent is on full display in this zestful romp for 8- to 12-year-olds. (Wall Street Journal , July 19th Wall Street Journal)

Some books for young readers perfectly capture childhood in a particular time and place.

A trackless swamp of "stinging pricker vines and high-pitched clouds of mosquitoes" could be a fetid place of malevolence and loss, as it was in Kathi Appelt's acclaimed 2008 novel, "The Underneath." But in her new book for young readers, "The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp" (Atheneum, 326 pages, $16.99), the same setting is shot through with rollicking good humor.

The scouts of the title are scrappy young raccoons, Bingo and J'miah, whose job it is to keep watch for a snoozing sasquatch called the Sugar Man and his gigantic pet rattlesnake, Gertrude. On the edge of the bayou, meanwhile, lives a 12-year-old named Chap who has been shrouded in "a big cloud of lonesome" since the death of his grandfather.

As the story opens, the boy is frantic to find a way to save his mother's cafe (specialty: fried sugar pies) from the rapacity of a female gator-wrestler and a bow-tied real-estate developer whose own grandfather—stay with me here—long ago signed a treaty in blood with the Sugar Man himself.

Bearing down on this colorful array of personalities is the Farrow Gang, a family of feral hogs that enjoys nothing so much as to crush and destroy. Feral hogs, the genial omniscient narrator explains, "usually travel in family groups called sounders. Isn't that a great word? 'Sounders'? We just love that. But do we love . . . the Farrow Gang? Friends, there is nothing to love there. Nothing." Ms. Appelt has a genius for causing disparate narrative elements to cohere suddenly and movingly, and her talent is on full display in this zestful romp for 8- to 12-year-olds. (Wall Street Journal , July 19th Wall Street Journal)

As with her Newbery Honor book The Underneath, Kathi Appelt sets this captivating web of interconnected stories in the ancient forests of piney trees and integrates the alluring lore of the bayou. But she adopts a lighter voice, just right for a storyteller with a Southern drawl to read aloud.

Deep in the Sugar Man Swamp, raccoons Bingo and J'miah serve as Information Officers from the safety of a 1949 DeSoto. Whenever lightning strikes nearby, it triggers "the Voice of Intelligence" (children will quickly realize it's a radio) that often gives them orders. Chap, the 12-year-old grandson of Audie Brayburn, makes it his mission to find his grandfather's DeSoto and complete his quest of locating the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Ever since Audie's recent death, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, "the official owner" of the swamp, has threatened to run Chap and his mother out of their Paradise Pies Café, so that he can set up a theme park. The local radio announcer's daily sign-off bids "all you swamp critters to have a good day and a good idea," and each character gets at least one.

Appelt weaves the rich language of legends passed down through generations. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is as mythical as the Sugar Man. She carries weighty themes lightly, and spins a story that reminds us that kin extends beyond the prescribed family tree. By the end of the story, we understand that that includes "all the swamp critter." As Audie told Chap, they are paisanos, fellow countrymen. They come from the same soil. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Newbery Honor author Appelt's return to the bayou setting of The Underneath, with a lighter touch and an environmental theme. (Shelf Awareness, STARRED REIVEW)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442421053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442421059
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on August 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here's why THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP has made me a happy camper and now becomes my favorite book of this year:

It is LMAO funny. There is smart humor and goofy humor and physical humor and hyperbole and hysterical twists and turns of phrase.

It is filled with great language, words like aught, denizen, procyonid, falderal, Alouicious, extant, peccaries, ruminations, milieu, cryptid, and certitude.

It is a noisy book, crafted with a wealth of onomatopoeia that is both powerfully descriptive and really entertaining.

There are pirates and rowdy sea chanteys and canebrake rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus giganticus) and lullabies.

There are three really important, somewhat interrelated, environmental issues.

There is a wonderful twelve year-old boy character, Chaparral Brayburn, who has to deal both with the bad guys and with those raucous raccoon brothers.

There is an amazing development of interconnections between a sixteenth century conquistador, a bunch of evil hogs, and a rusted-out, somewhat magical car.

"His instinct was to head for the hills, but are there any hills in the swamp? We think you can answer that question all by yourself. Poor Leroy was stuck."

This one left me as wired as a great rock concert. I've preordered my finished copy. Now I'm wanting to know where I can get one of the tour tee shirts.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dakota Wolf on July 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp." The only good thing about this book being over for me, is I can now tell you how fantastic it is. The author is a wonderful weaver of stories, and she makes a beautiful tapestry from the adventures of our raccoon friends Bingo and J'miah, a sleepy and sweet toothed cryptid named "The Sugar Man" and his slithering sidekick Gertrude, a fine young Homo Sapien named Chap Brayburn, some not so fine Homo Sapiens named Sonny Boy Beaucoup and Jaeger Stitch, some mean - and I mean MEAN - wild boars, a wise and creative DJ, a red star, a pirate, a mom, some fond memories of a beloved and nature loving grandpa, a swamp, an old Polaroid camera, and some delicious pies. Throw in solid writing, short chapters, humor, a satisfying ending, and you are sure to have a winner with the 10-12 year old crowd (and possibly their parents and teachers too).

I will end this review with the wise words of KSUG DJ, Coyoteman Jim, "Have a good day and a good idea....Arrrrooooooo!"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You only need to take one look at the cover of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp to feel all that potential. You just know that here comes another classic, another storytelling masterpiece from the author who brought us The Underneath. Although it delivered the goods in so many ways, it just didn't make it all the way there for me.

Appelt once again shows off her fine gift for dialect, language, and character. This is a story that begs to be read out loud! I had the feeling while I was reading it that I was sitting on the author's front porch in a rocking chair listening to her spin me a yarn. There is comfort in this kind of story, where the good guys are just plain ol' folk (and animals), and the villains are so over the top mean that there's no doubt as to where they stand.

My problem with Sugar Man is in the plotting. It was just a jumbled mess to begin with, and if we had been sitting on the porch listening to this story, I would have delivered a sound kick to the author's rocking chair and told her to get on with it. We meet a lot of characters here, and they are presented in ways that sometimes seem convoluted. It was hard to get a firm grip on this narrative until a little over half way through, when things finally started to come together.

I did enjoy The True Blue Scouts! Bingo and J'Miah are great characters that made me laugh. I worry that young readers might not have the patience to sort through a rough beginning and still be around for when things really start to click. I hope they do, as they will be well rewarded. This one didn't quite live up to my expectations, but is still a recommend.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ms Winston VINE VOICE on December 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp" certainly had a lot of possibilities. I have a 10 year old granddaughter who is in the process of transitioning from picture books (including those with more of a story line, such as the Bill Peet books) to chapter books with few or no illustrations. In wanting a real 10 year old to read this book with me, I discovered it is just a little bit too long for that age group, except perhaps as a book that one reads to a child that age, which is what I ended up doing. As I never had a chance to finish reading it to her, I realized it was not going to be a hit -- a book that she would ask me to read with her when she came to visit. I finished it on my own and it remains in my possession. In addition to being too long, it also had too many characters and included flashbacks which some younger children might find confusing. The raccoon boys were precious, as was the cover illustration. This is one of those cases where some children are going to relish this book (probably the 11 and 12 year olds), and the younger ones perhaps not so much. For an adult, I found it to be an okay book, but probably not one I will re-read.
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