Sunday, July 1, 2018

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Rating: WORTHY!

Read by Lyle Lovett of all people, and pretty decently too, this audiobook turned out to be a worthy listen despite some annoyances, which may well not be so annoying for the middle grade reader this is evidently aimed at.

The true blue scouts are raccoons Bingo and J'miah, who are newly recruited to report on events in the swamp to their overlord, the Sugar Man, who I suspected from the off was a bear of some sort, but in the end I had no idea what he was! Meanwhile in the human world there are machinations going on! A developer wants to take over the swamp and turn it into some sort of theme park, and he has the support of the admirably-named Yeager Stitch (spelling - this was an audiobook after all!) who wrestles alligators for a living. You know how this is going to end, so the fun is the journey there and the author keeps it fun for the most part, especially in detailing the antics of the raccoons, and a band of unruly hogs.

My problems with it were two-fold. The first of these was the sound effects which I assume were written into the text, such as the attack of a rattler being described as snip-snap, zip-zap, which was annoying (as well as inaccurate) the first time I heard it, let alone the tenth. Also the idea of drawing out the letter 's' in words spoken by snakes is so far overdone these days that it's just irritating and not even mildly imaginative. Let's cut that out shall we? I could have done without those sound effects, but maybe younger kids will like them. The other issue was more serious because it relates to the overall theme, which seemed to be environmental - in that more than one party was working to protect the swamp from being plowed under and cemented over.

That's all well and good. No problem there, but one of the parties expressing astonishment that someone was planning on destroying the swamp was also the same one which was running a café that served sugar pie, which was made by pillaging the sugar cane that grew near the café. No one said a word about replanting this cane, to keep it replenished, All I ever heard was the clear-cutting of it to get the sugar. That sends a poor message right there and a hypocritical one too. You can't protect the environment by raping it. That's like cola company saying they're replacing every drop of water they suck up from the environment to feed us diabetes-inducing drinks, and then carefully arranging their accounting so they're really doing no such thing, but it looks like they are from a certain perspective.

That aside this story was entertaining and amusing, so I'm going to let the environmental snafu slide in this case and rate this a worthy read.