Lost in the River of Grass is based on the true story of my husband’s ill-fated airboat trip into the Everglades with his then girlfriend. They returned from exploring one of the hunting camps ten miles deep in 'glades to find the airboat with only the propeller cage sticking out of the water. No one knew where they were, so over the next three days they walked due east toward the levee that would take them south to the Tamiami Trail (US 41.) I wrote the original story of that ordeal for Fort Lauderdale’s Gold Coast magazine (March 1994.) After the publication of my first novel, Dolphin Sky, in that same year, I began work on turning his story into young adult fiction.
Doug and his girlfriend were rescued by Coast Guard helicopter on Day 3. A copy of the note that the Coast Guard pilot placed inside a large fishing bobber and dropped to a Miccosukee Indian who had also been searching for them in his airboat.
A friend of mine asked John Dufresne, after reading his novel set in Louisiana, why none of the characters were Black. He said, “How do you know they aren’t?
Ginny’s comments here may spoil the story. Please read the following only after you’ve read the book.
On a recent blog review of my book, Lost in the River of Grass, the reviewer ended with this statement:
“It is not until the very end of the novel is Sarah's race revealed. I thought revealing her race and economic status at the same time would have made more sense instead of the other way around. When her race is revealed, I couldn't help but think "Well, ok" which I'm sure is not what the author intended, especially when Sarah and Andy's relationship grows.”
What this author intended was for the reader to examine his or her assumptions about race. If you read through the novel assuming Sarah is white only to find out she isn’t, what does that say about your racial assumptions? How would the reader have read it differently if he/she had known at the onset? And why is the author required to specify the race of a Black, Hispanic, Asian or Muslim character, but not have to inform the reader of the racial identity of a White character. We readers, including—oddly—readers of color, assume a character is white if a race isn’t specified. What does it say about us that White is the default race? I wrote it this way because I want this to be part of a class discussion, as exampled by two of the Study Guide questions.
1. Do you think there is a reason the author put a Confederate flag in the garage? How does Andy feel about the flag? How does Sarah? What is its significance to you?
2. There is a quote in the author’s notes by John Dufresne. Why is that quote significant to what you know about Sarah?
Letter from Joni Colver
I just finished reading Lost in the River of Grass. I am 55 years old and I dearly loved this book. I found the end so emotionally stirring that I sat on the back porch with tears in my eyes as I read. I felt like I was in the Everglades with Andy and Sarah. Since I am blind I read your book in digital audio format through the National Library Service for the Blind. Your descriptions of the landscape and the animals was vivid and a pleasure to read and experience.
I read a lot of books, but this is one of the best I have come across. I feel that it is a perfect book, if there is such a thing. The setting was a character in and of itself. The adventure/survival story was so compelling that I stayed up half the night reading most of the book when I only intended to read the first chapter before bedtime. The relationship between the two main characters was beautiful. I loved Andy, Sarah, and Teapot. The book truly touched my heart.
I just had to write to compliment you on your writing and story-telling skills and to thank you for sharing such a terrific book with readers like me.
I also love the quote on your website:
"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as important to the child as it is to the caterpillar." Bradley Millar.
Review by: Kimberly Miller
I just finished Lost in a River of Grass and wanted to let you know just how much I love your writing. There is a quality in what you put to paper that grabs my full attention and makes me never want to let go. I am always a little sad when I reach the end of one of your books, and I hesitate to read the last page. Your latest is no exception. the non-stop adventure, the twists and turns, and the emotion of the tale are phenomenal. Thank you for sharing your work. I look forward to recommending it to everyone I see.
AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
Sunshine State Young Readers Award
2012 / 2013
Nominated for Missouri's Truman Award
2013 / 2014
A Scholastic Book Fair selection
Westchester Fiction Awards
A Junior Library Guild selection