The Florida Library Media Association release lists of recommended books for young readers every year. The Sunshine State Readers (SSYRA) are 15 books for students in grade 3-5 and another 15 books for grades 6-8.
Check out the full book lists here.
As you might know, I've been working on reading the Newbery Award winners as my own personal challenge. But my students have been kicking my butt in reading the SSYRA books so I took a break from the Newbery Awards to read this one.
Lost in the River of Grass is the story of two teens lost in the Florida Everglades fighting for their lives in the journey back to civilization. Sara and Andy find themselves stranded after the air boat they took out into the swamp sinks. They have a ten mile hike through some of the most treacherous terrain in the US to get to safety.
I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It's a quick easy read. The plot is interesting enough to suck you in. It's also predictable enough that you feel certain they will get out safe, it's just a matter of exactly how. The characters are likable, but not terrible well developed. Some of the dialogue is a bit cheese considering the life and death situation they are in.
There is a minor PG romance that involves some hand holding and hugging and one kiss on the cheek. A couple of references to body changes and social dynamics of the main character do make it more relatable and appropriate for middle school students. (SSYRA has this on the 6-8 lists and I agree)
What I like most about it is the Florida connection. The Everglades are an amazing feature of the state that most residents never really consider, much less explore. I like that it will get students thinking about this huge ecosystem and the impact Florida's industrialism has had on it.
I can't help but compare it to much better book about a young teen out in the Everglades.
The Talking Earth is the story of an Indian girl who journeys out into the Everglades to discover the secrets of her ancestors. This book is just better written and more though provoking. But the two combined will make an interesting book study. Comparing how the characters survive vs. thrive in the swamp and why, would be a great lesson for students.