"Now the night was bright and the stars threw light
On Billy and Davy dancin' in the moonlight"
-- Bruce Springsteen, "Spirit in the Night"
"In that bright new moment of the night, Bingo had one thing on his mind,
one singular sensation: climb.
"J'miah had one thing on his mind too: prevent Bingo from meeting the same
fate as Great Uncle Banjo. It was an unsettling thought, one that made
him imagine two different options. The first option was to climb up after
Bingo. With a shiver, he quickly erased that thought out of his mind.
"But the second option was almost as bad: to stand at the bottom of the
tree and catch Bingo if he fell. That gave J'miah a vision of two flattened
raccoons. Rather like a stack of stripy pancakes, without the butter and
"Then it occurred to him that he had a third option. He would just pull
his invisible thinking cap so far over his eyes that he would not be able to
see Bingo's death-defying climb at all. That way, if his brother fell,
J'miah would be spared the horror of witnessing it, and also would not be
forced to try to save him. Although he had to admit that it was a somewhat
cowardly option, it seemed like the most reasonable course of action.
"Sadly, none of J'miah's thoughts slowed Bingo down."
Excuse me. I'm going to head off on a tangent here for a minute.
These days, I'm living communally with a bunch of young folks, most of
whom are spending chunks of the summer attending various music-filled "tribal
gatherings" around California and beyond. In a weaker moment yesterday, I
got talked into going online and buying a ticket for a four-day "tribal
gathering" happening over a weekend a ways up north of here. This is a new
one for me. I'm not sure what to expect, but the website tells me that "In
the embrace of a majestic redwood forest we celebrate our culture through
dance, art, nature and the unyielding gift of the human spirit." Okay,
then. All righty.
I asked my young housemates what I'll need to pack, and I scribbled down
a list of what they advised. Then, a bit later, I got a text from one of
my housemates further advising me that I might consider bringing along some
books and offering story times over the weekend. A couple of minutes
later, this was followed by another text suggesting that I paint a "StoryTime
with Richie" sign and "put whatever time you want to read at...wherever you
want in the forest."
So now I'm understanding that I am to become part of creating this
celebration. That's cool. But my next thought is: Well, what's something
amazing that I can bring to read, something that will astound a mixed audience of
young kids and grown-up kids who are celebrating nature and the human
spirit amidst a majestic redwood forest?
And it must have been my golden day yesterday, because just like
clockwork, the UPS guy shows up at that very moment with an advance copy of THE TRUE
BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP which (having now spent all today reading
it) is so darn good that I'm now totally psyched about painting a StoryTime
sign and getting to sit there in the majestic redwoods reading this one
aloud all weekend to whatever kids, critters, and random spirits happen to
feel like coming by and listening.
Here's why THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP has made me a happy
camper and now becomes my favorite book of this year:
It is LMAO funny. There is smart humor and goofy humor and physical humor
and hyperbole and hysterical twists and turns of phrase.
It is filled with great language, words like aught, denizen, procyonid,
falderal, Alouicious, extant, peccaries, ruminations, milieu, cryptid, and
It is a noisy book, crafted with a wealth of onomatopoeia that is both
powerfully descriptive and really entertaining.
There are pirates and rowdy sea chanteys and canebrake rattlesnakes
(Crotalus horridus giganticus) and lullabies.
There are three really important, somewhat interrelated, environmental
There is a wonderful twelve year-old boy character, Chaparral Brayburn,
who has to deal both with the bad guys and with those raucous raccoon
There is an amazing development of interconnections between a sixteenth
century conquistador, a bunch of evil hogs, and a rusted-out, somewhat
"His instinct was to head for the hills, but are there any hills in the
swamp? We think you can answer that question all by yourself. Poor Leroy
This one left me as wired as a great rock concert. I've preordered my
finished copy. Now I'm wanting to know where I can get one of the tour tee
384 pages Ages 9-12 978-1-4424-2105-9
ALSC Tween Recommended Reads http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/Tween13_RecReadsList.pdf