The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp Book Poster Image
Folksy novel sends environmentalist message.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn a little about flora and fauna of swamplands in Louisiana, but factual information is blended with fantasy and anthropomorphism, so younger readers may not distinguish the facts from fiction.

Positive Messages

Respect for the environment is the central theme here. Take care of the natural world, because so many creatures depend on it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Audie Brayburn taught his grandson, Chap, about their awesome world by the Bayou, and gave him the skills and resourcefulness Chap needs to save the swamp.

Violence & Scariness

Snakes and alligators threaten humans and other animals, but the only blood is drawn by thorny vines. The giant Sugar Man dispenses with invading, malicious creatures but does them no harm.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a conservation-focused novel by Kathi Appelt, author of the Newbery Honor Book The Underneath, reads like a folktale. While the human characters jockey for control of the swamplands, anthropomorphism makes it easy for kids to empathize with the animal characters whose habitat is being threatened. There are some scary animals, too -- snakes and alligators -- but the only blood comes from scratchy vines. The most powerful creature in the swamp, the Sugar Man, is a gentle giant who exerts his wrath only when the swamp is threatened.

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What's the story?

THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP are two raccoons, Bingo and J’miah, who keep watch over their home turf; it's their job to report \"emergencies: and awaken the long-sleeping, giant Sugar Man if he is needed to protect the swampland. The swamp is also beloved by Chap Brayburn, whose family runs a the Paradise Pies Cafe, serving sugar pies made from local, wild sugarcane. The story brings two separate threats to the swamp: Sonny Boy Beaucoup, whose family has long owned the land and wants to develop it into the \"Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park,\" and some non-native hogs who are thundering toward the swamp to devour all the sugarcane. Meanwhile, the sugarcane is protected by hundreds of venomous snakes, but the only way the scouts can wake the Sugar Man and enlist his help against the pigs and developers is to entice him with the smell of sugar. It's quite a puzzle.

Is it any good?

Kathi Appelt tells this conservation-focused story in short chapters and a folksy style that keeps the book light and moves it along briskly. However, as the book begins in cute fits and starts, it will take readers a good 30 to 40 pages to understand who all the characters are and what the main plot is. The appeal of this "tall tale" approach to storytelling is a matter of taste, but the novel carries a strong message about respecting the natural world, bolstered by the personification of animal characters like the True Blue Scouts.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about animal stories with envrionmental themes. How does this book differ from others you've read about animals or the environment?

  • Why do you think the woodpecker is important to Chap, and what does it mean to Sonny Boy?

  • What did you learn about raccoons from this book?

Book details

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