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A Reading Group Guide to The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp By Kathi Appelt About the Book 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 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 . . . Discussion Questions and Activities The following questions may be utilized throughout the novel study as reflective writing prompts or alternatively, they can be used as targeted questions for class discussion and reflection. 1. At the beginning of Chapter 1, as the raccoon brothers watch their parents depart from Information Headquarters, Daddy-O calls out to Bingo and J’miah and says, “Make us proud, boys!” Consider their jobs as Official Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp. Why is this duty, ordained by the Sugar Man himself, so important? In your opinion, does this pair do a good job fulfilling their duties? Cite textual evidence to support your position. 2. Consider the novel’s title: In what ways does it capture the themes of the book? 3. Describe Chap. What makes him a dynamic character? Is he the type of person you’d want to befriend? Why or why not? 4. Why is Chap’s loss of his grandpa Audie such a profound one? What do you learn about their relationship over the course of the novel? What are the most important life lessons that Chap learns from his grandpa? 5. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by Chap, Bingo, and J’miah in The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp? 6. Based on what you learn about him from the novel, describe Sonny Boy Beaucoup, the man who owns the Sugar Man Swamp. In your opinion, is he a good person? 7. Why is Chap’s discovery of his grandpa Audie’s lost DeSoto such a monumental event? 8. In what ways are Bingo and J’miah typical brothers? Is there anything about their bond that reminds you of the relationship you have with any of your siblings? If so, in what ways? 9. If you could select one character in the novel to learn more about, who would it be? What is it about this particular character you found interesting or intriguing? 10. Consider the novel’s cover. In what ways is the image portrayed there symbolic of the events that transpire throughout the course of the book? 11. In the opening of Chapter 24, Appelt tells readers, “It’s true that pigs can’t fly, but we’re here to talk about hogs.” What is it about the Farrow Gang that strikes such fear in those that know of their hunt for the canebrake? 12. Consider the variety of settings for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp; name the three places you believe to be most important to the story. Using textual evidence from the book, explain why you find them to be significant to the overall story structure. 13. Why is Chap so determined to attract more customers to Paradise Pies? Beyond the financial support the restaurant provides to him and his mother, what does Paradise Pies symbolize for him? 14. Using the phrase, “This is a story about . . .,” supply five words to describe The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Explain your choices. This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock, a teacher and school librarian in Coppell, Texas. Dr. Brock holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows. She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband. Visit her at KathiAppelt.com.