Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1803
Trouble in the Swamps
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This homage to Beowulf finds Charlie Reynolds traveling to a Southern town for the funeral of a football coach who influenced his stepfather, Prester Mack. Once there, Mack wants to stay to finish up the coaching season and wants Charlie to stay and get to know his cousin, Cotton. Charlie's mother wants to head back home because Charlie's father is in the area, and she left him because he was abusive. Charlie and Cotton soon find out that all sorts of bizarre things are going on in the town. The sugarcane fields might be good places to run to train for football, but they are also dangerous. Charlie and Cotton get deeply involved with the monsters in the fields and can only survive by figuring out what is going on.

This is very lyrically written, and the details about Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's mother are kind of interesting. The Southern setting is unusual and adds a deeply creepy element to the story-- the smell of the cane burning, the clinging filth of the muck, and the small town culture are all vividly described. Charlie's longing for his father and his grateful acceptance of his step father are poignantly examined. Add a bit of football and some terrifying monsters, and this is a solid middle grade read. The racial elements (Charlie and his mother are white; Prester is black) are not overplayed but important to the story.
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