Lu and the Swamp Ghost

Book review by
Marigny Dupuy, Common Sense Media
Lu and the Swamp Ghost Book Poster Image
An irresistible storytime treasure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the first book for children by James Carville -- the high profile, left-leaning, fearlessly direct political strategist -- reveals a gentler side with such success that he may have to consider a second career.

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What's the story?

In the Louisiana swamp during the Great Depression of the 1930's a little girl named Lu, after Carville's mother Lucille, lives with her big, warm-hearted country family. When Lu asks her Mama if their family is poor, Mama answers, \"You're never poor if you have a loving family and one good friend.\" Lu has the loving family, but she longs for the one good friend as well.

Walking alone in the swamp one day, Lu runs into what she takes to be the dreaded Swamp Ghost, a terrible looking creature covered with mud and leaves from head to toe. Although certain that her end is near, the brave girl offers the ghost a deal: a regular supply of her family's delicious food in exchange for her life. To her relief, he accepts. A terrific storm later reveals the true identity of the \"ghost.\" He is actually an orphan boy who has been riding the rails in hopes of finding work. It turns out that he had covered himself with mud and leaves to protect himself from mosquitoes while he hid in the swamp. Kind-hearted Lu offers to bring him home to her family knowing that she has found her one good friend.

Is it any good?

Carville tells his tale in true Southern storytelling style, and all of the requisite elements are present. There is the big, warm Southern family, there are delicious smells of red beans, rice, and cornbread wafting from the kitchen, Cypress trees and alligators, and a scary swamp legend. The heroine shows just enough spunk balanced by just enough caution to draw the reader along in her gullibility. Lu's warmhearted decision to bring the former "swamp ghost" back to her family ends the story on an upbeat note.

Working with Patricia McKissack, an award-winning author of numerous books for children, was a wise choice. She knows how to speak to children in a way that makes them listen. And the sometimes rather odd looking characters created by political cartoonist and children's book illustrator David Catrow are also strangely appealing in their own drop-eared, deadpan way. The accompanying CD features Carville's narration, an additional pleasure. All in all, this is a storytime treasure that is almost irresistible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about different regions of the country and what makes each unique. How do Southern traditions, culture, and history differ from those in your area? Can you find similarities, too? Besides geography, what do people from a certain region share?

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