The Boys of Blur

The Boys of Blur
Age Range
Release Date
April 08, 2014
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Fans of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee and Louis Sachar's Holes will enjoy this story about a boy and the ancient secrets that hide deep in the heart of the Florida everglades near a place called Muck City. When Charlie moves to the small town of Taper, Florida, he discovers a different world. Pinned between the everglades and the swampy banks of Lake Okeechobee, the small town produces sugar cane . . . and the fastest runners in the country. Kids chase muck rabbits in the fields while the cane is being burned and harvested. Dodging flames and blades and breathing smoke, they run down the rabbits for three dollars a skin. And when they can do that, running a football is easy. But there are things in the swamp, roaming the cane at night, that cannot be explained, and they seem connected to sprawling mounds older than the swamps. Together with his step-second cousin "Cotton" Mack, the fastest boy on the muck, Charlie hunts secrets in the glades and on the muck flats where the cane grows secrets as old as the soft earth, secrets that haunted, tripped, and trapped the original native tribes, ensnared conquistadors, and buried runaway slaves. Secrets only the muck knows.

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1 review
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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