Review: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Genre: Fiction, fantasy Age Level: MG Series: N/A
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Age Level: MG
Series: N/A

Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts – a big responsibility, yes, but rest assured: They are indeed ready to shoulder this duty. You might even say they’ve been waiting their whole lives. The opportunity to serve the Sugar Man – the massive creature who delights in delicious sugar cane and magnanimously rules the swamp – is an honor; yes, it is. And the rest of the critters in the swamp rely heavily on the intel of these hardworking Scouts.

Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn, on the other hand, is not a member of any such organization. But he does know the canebrake lullaby and how to fry a sugar pie like nobody’s business. Plus, he loves the swamp something fierce. He’ll do anything to protect it.

Well, good thing for that, because there’s a gang of wicked feral hogs on the march, headed straight for Sugar Man Swamp. And there’s a group of developers headed towards the swamp from another direction. Slowly at first, but picking up speed as they go, they all barrel forward.

Wake up, Sugar Man. Wake up!


Don’t be fooled by the cutesey cover (which I LOVE) and fun plot. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is funny but packs a serious punch and is extremely memorable. 

I would have adored this book as a kid. I read any books about animals and this one would have been an instant favorite. Especially because of the raccoons. I’ve always had a soft spot for them – more so in books than in real life. And let me tell you – Bingo and J’miah are adorable.

This book is a bildungsroman as you’d expect from a middle grade novel but is also so much more. It has strong environmental undertones but is done subtly. No matter how much of an environmentalist I am, I hate books which shove messages down my throat. The True Blue Scouts never directly addresses the issue, but that makes it all the more effective. By the end of the book you develop a strong connection with the swamp and when it is in danger of being destroyed, you want to step in and save it. The book is more about respecting nature and living in harmony with it than being all ‘bad things will happen if you pollute’.

The plot, setting and writing style are all super unique and complex. The plot is centered around multiple conflicts and multiple mysteries and not all get fully resolved. There are a whole bunch of plots that on there own would be incredible enough, but are masterfully woven together to create a very strong story. Though some of the characters never meet, their lives are entwined in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.

The book is written in a style that directly addresses the reader and is sassy at times and funny at others. I was drawn into the story from the first page and got rather emotionally invested in the fate’s of the characters and the swamp. We get little bits a pieces of the supposed history of the swamp and it made the story feel more real.

Bingo is brave, impulsive and carefree while J’miah is cautious, organized and a bit of a worrier. They argue a little, as brothers should, but ultimately work together for the good of the swamp. Their home, once they become scouts, is a 1949 DeSoto and they listen to ‘Voice of Intelligence’ who is really the radio announcer who can be heard whenever lighting strikes nearby. Told you they were adorable. On the other side we have Chap, who I didn’t quite like at first, but really connected with as the story progressed. Heck, I loved all the characters – apart from the bad one’s of course.

The ending of the story is a little unbelievable as everything gets neatly tied off but I loved it nonetheless. Throughout the whole story I kept trying to guess how everything would get resolved but couldn’t because it happened in ways I wasn’t able to anticipate. I loved all the little details that came together and how it was about facing your fears and doing the right thing. The final chapter was sheer brilliance.

Recommended to anyone who’s an animal lover, an environmentalist, a fan of middle grade fiction or just anyone who looking for a good story. I am definitely interested in reading Kathi Appelt’s other works and will never forget this story.


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Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


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