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

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

by Kathi Appelt

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. 327 pages.
2013 Cybils Finalist
2013 Capitol Choices Selection (audiobook)
2013 National Book Award Finalist

Bingo and J’miah are raccoons who live in Sugar Man Swamp, and they are True Blue Scouts. Here is information from the first page of the book:

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. Of course, Bingo and J’miah would follow the orders. They knew them by heart.


  • keep your eyes open
  • keep your ears to the ground
  • keep your nose in the air
  • be true and faithful to each other
  • in short, be good

These orders were practical, and the raccoon brothers had no problem following them. Besides, Bingo and J’miah weren’t ordinary Swamp Scouts. They were, in fact, Information Officers, a highly specialized branch of the Scout system. And because of this there were two additional orders:

  • always heed the Voice of Intelligence, and
  • in the event of an emergency, wake up the Sugar Man

The first additional order was easy enough, as we shall soon see, but the second was a different matter. The problem? Nobody really knew exactly where the Sugar Man slept, only that it was somewhere in the deepest, darkest part of the swamp. He hadn’t been seen in many years.

An emergency does come up in the course of the book. And waking up the Sugar Man is indeed a problem.

We also follow the fortunes of Chap Brayburn and his mother, who run Paradise Pies, by the edge of the swamp. Chap’s Grandpa Audie recently died. Grandpa Audie had loved the swamp, just as Chap does.

But now the owner of the swamp, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, is planning to evict them, unless they can come up with a boatload of cash. Then he’s going to pave over the swamp and build The Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park.

So both Chap and the raccoons are facing emergencies. Emergencies that the Sugar Man can solve. But how to find him? And how to wake him up without incurring his wrath? It’s going to take some careful work.

This story is told with a folksy voice, which I found slightly annoying, but could be charming. Our library doesn’t have the audiobook on CD, but in Capitol Choices I’ve heard that this version is completely delightful. There are tall tale elements in the tale and over-the-top characters. The result is a lot of fun and would make great family listening.

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