The Sign Tracker Trilogy was created in order to communicate scientific knowledge about drug addiction to the general public. The stories are set in the Eastern Woodlands amidst the lakes, mountains, and rivers of North America and follow the adventures of a raccoon called Sign Tracker and other inhabitants of the Great Forest, especially Mapache, a Native American warrior. The stories are entertaining and imaginative but what is unique about The Sign Tracker Trilogy is that the plot is based on scientific studies which have shown that symbols of reward are powerful enough to drive actions that are counter-productive and unintended. Woven throughout this series of short stories is a depiction of Native American life, in particular their custom of tapping the sugar maple tree to make sugar. The preparation and storage of the “sweet water” is an integral part of the story line. The bond of the Native Americans to their native land enchants the reader as animals and people form relationships. Each story describes the adventures of the raccoon family and the native people as friendships are made, broken, and sustained through life’s trials.
In Part I, “The Tail of the Raccoon: Secrets of Addiction”, Sign Tracker cannot control his impulses that are triggered by cues, after he has tasted the delicious foods of the people. The rings on his tail begin to fade away as he loses free will and self control. After suffering the consequences of his impulsive behavior, he comes to realize that he must stay away from the signs that remind him of the rewarding food. Part II elaborates further on the relationship between cues and rewards, and introduces the reader to the role of sign-tracking in the drug addiction process. In Part II, Sign Tracker’s son, Lepus, becomes captivated by a venomous but exquisite potion offered to him by Alatro, the villainous black widow. Driven by his need to get another dose of the rewarding potion offered in a silken vial, Lepus encounters dangerous situations, and relationships with his family members become strained. Part III details the horrors of relapse, as Lepus hits rock bottom and must endure life-threatening injuries, lengthy rehabilitation, and self-imposed exile.