A short while back I decided to try an audio book for the first time. The book I chose was Kathi Appelt's newest novel, the True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Unfortunately, the experiment was a bust. The failure had nothing to do with Lyle Lovett's amazing narration of the story, and it certainly wasn't due to Ms. Appelt's phenomenal writing skills. The problem arose from the noise levels I'm surrounded with while driving my minivan filled with kids. I simply could not concentrate.
I did glean enough from the tale, however, to become intrigued. So I ran back to the library and filled out an inter-library loan slip for the actual hard copy. Fortunately, the book arrived in a timely manner and I began to devour it.
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a tale of what can be accomplished when even an unlikely group of creatures share a common goal. In this case, the swamp, which is the home to everyone involved, is being threatened by one of their own, Sonny Boy Beaucoup. He has teamed up with a female alligator wrestler with the intent to destroy the swamp for their own greedy good, with no thought to the lives that will be destroyed along with it.
The fact that most of the characters are non-human detracts not one whit from the logic and emotion they exude as they unwittingly work together to outwit the nefarious Beaucoup. I loved how Ms. Appelt brought all of these characters together to work on a common goal without them realizing the fact that they were being used for such purposes.
The tale is a tall one, and filled with humor and the unbelievable. But the love she invests in her characters is reflected in the
heartwarming feeling they evoke in the readers. Underneath (no pun intended) all the fun are lessons we can all take to heart for the preservation of the gifts we have been given. From the Ivory-billed woodpecker (or Lord God Bird, as it is often referred to), to the honoring of traditions and memories of those passed, there is a touch of nostalgia for many of us in this beautifully rendered work of art.
I highly recommend this book as a read-aloud in classrooms, as a bedtime treat, or as a read alone for the slightly older reader.