The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
Borrowed from my local library
This is the story of two raccoon scouts who collect intelligence for the Sugar Man, a bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti cousin who lives in the Sugar Man Swamp in eastern Texas. Bingo and J'miah spend their days camped out in an abandoned DeSoto, waiting for the next transmission. When struck by lightning, which it is, with some frequency, the radio turns on for a brief moment and the message received is always the truth. Of course, the raccoons have no idea that it's the radio in the car, they just know they are to listen when it speaks.
Chap Brayburn is a six foot tall little boy (he's 12) who lives on the edge of the Sugar Man Swamp. He's just lost his grandfather and is trying desperately to understand how to be the man of the house. It's just Chap and his mom. They run a sugar pie shop (I spent way too much time reading this book, wondering if sugar pies do exist and where I can find a recipe for one. I found this one, but it doesn't really match the description in the book at all. I checked the author's website and on her FAQ page, she stated that she doesn't have a recipe for fried sugar pies, but wishes she did) on the edge of the swamp. People love them, but not many people know how to find them. The Brayburns are inches away from possibly losing their home and diner to make way for a wild gator wrestling arena that will be built after destroying much of the swamp and its surrounding woods.
Then there are the wild hogs who are tearing up the earth on their way to the sugar cane fields that separate the swamp from the Brayburn's home. Chap doesn't know what to do about the developer and the raccoons don't know what to do about the hogs. All three of them need the intercession of the Sugar Man, but can they wake him in time?
Appelt takes a handful of stories and manages to weave them and their characters together in a unique and often comical way. Chap's struggle to deal with the loss of his beloved grandfather was handled deftly. I can see how this book made it as a National Book Award Finalist.