Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kid Konnection: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp & Giveaway

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a  delightful new middle grade book.

Summary: Meet Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers on a mission to save Sugar Man Swamp in this tale from Newbery Honoree Kathi Appelt.

Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts. The opportunity to serve the Sugar Man—the massive creature who delights in delicious sugar cane and magnanimously rules over the swamp—is an honor, and also a big responsibility, since the rest of the swamp critters rely heavily on the intel of these hardworking Scouts.

Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn is not a member of any such organization. But he loves the swamp something fierce, and he’ll do anything to help protect it.

And help is surely needed, because world-class alligator wrestler Jaeger Stitch wants to turn Sugar Man swamp into an Alligator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park, and the troubles don’t end there. There is also a gang of wild feral hogs on the march, headed straight toward them all.

The Scouts are ready. All they have to do is wake up the Sugar Man. Problem is, no one’s been able to wake that fellow up in a decade or four…

Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt presents a story of care and conservation, funny as all get out and ripe for reading aloud. -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers

When I read the description for THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP by Kathi Appelt , I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect. The story sounded interesting, but also a little "out there." I'm not a big fan of fantasy and I wasn't sure I could buy raccoons being "scouts" or even a Sugar Man Swamp who hasn't been seen in many, many years. However, I was willing to give it a shot since the author is a Newbery Honoree.

Despite my reluctance, I have to say that I really enjoyed THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP (TTBSOSMS.) It's now obvious to me why this middle grade novel has already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Booklist! That's quite a list of accomplishments already! I don't claim to read a ton of middle grade books, but TTBSOSMS is unlike any book I've ever read -- and I mean that in the very best of ways!

TTBSOSMS is a delightful tale that takes place in an alligator swamp in Texas. The novel alternates between a variety of stories including the Sugar Man and a snake, the raccoon brothers who are scouts for the Sugar Man, a twelve year old Chap who is not only trying to save his family's restaurant but also the entire swamp, and a greedy pack of wild hogs! I have absolutely no idea how Ms. Appelt came up with this assortment of characters, or really the entire story for that matter, but it all came together in a highly entertaining (and very funny) book!

It's hard for me to describe this action-packed story in just a few sentences, but I'll do my best. Basically, a famous alligator wrestler named Jaeger wants to turn Sugar Man Swamp into a theme park; and at the same time, a family of wild hogs is closing in on the swamp. Chap is determined to honor his grandfather's memory by finding a lost DeSoto along with the ivory billed woodpecker, and he's also trying to save his failing family business. However, he realizes that he first has to save the swamp that he dearly loves to accomplish any of those missions. Meanwhile, the raccoon scouts are trying to find a way to wake up the mythical Sugar Man and warn him about the feral hogs without incurring his wrath.

Have I totally confused you? I think that's because there is so much going on this story and the basic plot is kind of silly. However, it all works -- it really does! The chapters are very short (in some cases, just a few sentences) and alternate between all of these characters' stories. As the book progresses, the stories start coming together and eventually culminate in a very exciting event!

There are quite a few things that I appreciated about TTBSOSMS. First of all, the story is so darn unique from the plot, to the characters, to the prose. Since the story takes place in a Texas swamp, the characters are kind of down-home/folksy. I love their accents and dialogue, and I was dying to read this story out loud because I think it would be so much fun to do all of the voices for a group of kids.

And that brings me to my next point... I'm pretty sure that kids are going to love this imaginative story. It's extremely entertaining and fast-paced, but it's also hilarious. The viewpoints of both the human characters as well as the animal ones were a riot and I think kids will even appreciate the humor in this book more than I did (and that's really saying something because I thought it was a hoot!)

And finally, I liked that this story had some wonderful messages about conservation, friendship and family, and hope. Naturally, the "good" guys defeated the "bad" ones, but in the process the characters demonstrate that doing the "right" thing is rewarding!

Overall, I loved TTBSOSMS and I highly recommend it for kids ages eight and up as well as their parents!

Be sure to visit Kathi’s other stops on her blog tour!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this novel.

I have a copy of TTBSOSMS to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 25th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

How funny - sounds sort of like Swamplandia, kid and animal style!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I know my son would love this, especially since it's adventurous and funny.

Sandy Nawrot said...

It sounds like a lot of fun! And bonus points for it being creative and unique. I just have a little bit of a hangup on raccoons, my ultimate nemesis. They are horrible little creatures that terrorize my cats and poop in my pool.

Beth F said...

I bet my niece would have loved this when she was a MG reader.

Beth Hoffman said...

I love the cover and the story sounds fun. Thanks for offering the giveaway!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not big on fantasy either but kids love it so I can see why this book would be a big hit!