Lostman’s River

by Cynthia DeFelice
Reading level: Ages 9-12

The Story

Thirteen-year-old Ty is apprenticing with a learned ornithologist, who is researching the various species of birds in the Florida swamps. While working with his mentor, Ty realizes how fragile the balance of nature is and, that to survive, nature often needs the help of humans.


1995 Books for the Teenage, chosen by The New York Public Library

A Note from the Author

My husband and kids and I have had many exciting outdoor adventures — backpacking, fishing, and bird-watching in wilderness areas. Several trips to the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands of Florida inspired me to write this book. This beautiful, remote area is where many species of birds gather in big groups called rookeries to nest and raise their young.

In the early 1900’s, however, it was the style for woman to wear large hats decorated with bird feathers – sometimes with an entire stuffed bird on top! To us, it sounds pretty gross, but at that time it was the height of fashion. There was such a demand for feathers that they were worth their weight in gold to a hunter who went and got them. These “plume hunters” were shooting thousands and thousands of birds in order to pluck the most elegant feathers from their heads to sell. Of course, the feathers were at their finest during the mating season, which meant the chicks or eggs left behind in the nests dies, as well. The Audubon Society was formed to protect the birds from extinction. A game warden was hired to protect the birds, but the hunters murdered him.

This seemed to me to be an exciting setting for an adventure story. Why, I wondered, might a young boy and his family be living in such a lonely, wild place? What might happen to that young boy when he finds himself alone in the swamps, being hunted by the hunters?


“The quality of the conflicts in this novel is first-rate–questions of loyalty, honor, trust, value of human life, and environmental concerns focus on the universal struggle between good and evil. ….. Once again DeFelice offers an adventure story sure to entertain as well as prod the reader’s conscience.” – Booklist

“This is easily the author’s best novel since Weasel, with strong, vividly evoked characters caught up in taut events that make a potent vehicle for a contemporary message illuminated by its historical setting.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Threats to the local birds and animals from feather and hide hunters and the attempts of a naturalist to identify the various species before they become extinct provide the background for a gripping novel set in the Florida Everglades in the early 1900s.” – Horn Book

“Kids will be pulled in by an atmosphere thick with wild creatures, and the desperate cries of hundreds of orphaned baby birds.” – School Library

Lostman’s River by Cynthia DeFelice
Paperback – 160 pages (October 1995)
Camelot; ISBN: 0380723964
School & Library Binding – 160 pages (April 1994)
Atheneum; ISBN: 0027264661