By Center for Children's Books
(Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books) Sugar hasn’t warmed up the the idea that he has to live in a swamp in the Mississippi Delta with Uncle Free, but that’s what Mama wanted, and ever since she died that’s where he’s been. Uncle Free, crippled in a train wreck, makes a decent living fishing, catching turtles, and gigging frogs, and he is teaching Sugar how to do the same, even though Sugar is terrified of the water and the haunting vegetation of the swamp. Gradually, though, he comes to see the wisdom of Mama’s choice; she found beauty in the swamp, and her faith in the necessity of beauty in everyday life seeps into Sugar’s perspective as well. The chief conflict in the story comes when money Mama earned for a stained-glass window for the new church is diverted to the purchase of brick after her death - Sugar is deeply angered by the decision, feeling it as added insult to the injury of losing his mother. Uncle Free manages to intervene, however, and see his sister’s dream to fruition… Rubright does a lovely job of evoking the natural setting of the swamp, in both its beautiful and its threatening aspect. [This] is a gentle, accessible story about the redemptive power of beauty, and the afterword will introduce students to a little-known figure from the early days of struggle for civil rights.