ENCHANTED EVERGLADES


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Kirkus Review

Kowatch combines Everglades ecology, with a tale of survival, friendship, and fantasy in this debut adventure novel for middle-grade readers.

Ocean River and Ellen Hansen, both 12 years old, are inseparable friends. After the untimely death of Ellen’s father, Ocean jeopardizes his bond with her when he accidentally disrupts the funeral. The rift grows until the two find themselves stuck together on vacation with Ellen’s mother and Ocean’s parents in Everglades National Park. When their airboat crashes, the tweens awaken to find themselves on their own, and they must work together to survive. Ocean and Ellen discover that they’re in “a freakish world” where “animals did yoga and chanted with beads, where ghosts and jumbo pythons roamed, [and] where raccoons had strange hairstyles.”

Their allies include a peaceful alligator who happens to be a “yogi master” and future king of the Everglades, a baby turtle, a wise wood stork, a fluffy dog, helpful pelicans, fierce dolphins, and a talkative lizard. These friends help them take on a mutant python and his children, scheming “playboy raccoons,” wily river otters, and up-to-no-good ospreys. The kids’ journey winds through exquisitely described swamp ecosystems, subtly distorted by man-made elements, such as global warming, pesticides, escaped exotic pets, and residual engine oil.

The rich descriptions of wildlife ecosystems make this book worth reading by all audiences; however, the action does have a cartoonish, made-for-TV feel that makes it most suitable for middle-grade readers. The book’s moral lessons are valid but still feel pat on delivery; for example, Ocean concludes too easily that “I need to live in the present moment and forgive the past, including my mistakes and [Ellen’s].”

Still, young readers will benefit from the book’s depictions of forgiveness within friendship, grief, resilience, and teamwork. (The book includes periodic black-and-white illustrations by Shinn that reflect the action of the story.)

A whimsical odyssey featuring a playfully bizarre cast of characters.


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Booklife Reviews

Filmmaker Kowatch brings larger-than-life characters and action scenes to middle grade readers in this highly visual mix of literary seriousness and fun adventure. Ocean River and Ellen Hansen, both age 12, are best friends—until Ellen’s father dies in a car crash and clumsy Ocean accidentally disrupts his funeral. When their parents take them on a vacation to the Everglades a couple months later, guilt-ridden Ocean isn’t even sure they can be friends again, and Ellen barely speaks to him. But their airboat crashes, and Ocean and Ellen must work together to find their parents and escape the dangerous swamp. On their journey they acquire supernatural talents and befriend an eccentric wood stork, a guileless soft-shell turtle, and Gumbo, a yoga-practicing, pacifist alligator who’s next in line to become king of the Everglades.

Kowatch’s descriptions and Shinn’s charming digital illustrations will leave readers feeling like they’ve stomped through the Everglades alongside Ocean and Ellen. The relationships are depicted with wonderful depth. Gumbo and his pals often meditate together, Ocean and Ellen talk about grief and growing up, Ocean’s parents share important lessons with him, and each character takes turns leading, encouraging, and sacrificing for the others in a way that feels sincere and psychologically healthy.

Yet all of these elements create a text that is sometimes busy and complicated. Chapters are told from various perspectives and the book blends Seminole mythology with Eastern spiritual practices, which may leave younger readers confused, uninterested, or just wanting more of the lively dialogue. However, the book’s quirkiness and cartoon-style illustrations, as well as its loose ends (perhaps left open for a sequel?), will likely keep them hooked. For kids entering adolescence in the 21st century, an adventure that includes real-life heaviness, environmental awareness and activism, meditation and affirmation, and a little bit of the absurd seems just right.

Takeaway: Tween readers (and their parents and teachers) will love the values, hardships, laughs, and learning in Kowatch’s thoughtful adventure fantasy.

Great for fans of the Magic School Bus series, the Magic Tree House series.


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Other Reviews

I thank these reviewers for liking the book! I hope you will too!

Disarmingly sweet, bright… ENCHANTED EVERGLADES pulls you into the fantastical kingdom of Florida, the jungle in America’s backyard, creating a believable sense of place even after the animals start talking. The parallel lives of a young boy and a young alligator weave together to explore youthful hopes and fears from unexpected angles, with plenty of goofy humor to keep the kids smiling. This is a big-hearted fable about kids of all species learning how to navigate the scary, snake-infested swamp of growing up.”

~ Isaac Marion, New York Times bestselling author of Warm Bodies

I LOVED IT!! I was greatly entertained and impressed. The prose is quick, skillful, and funny, and the characterizations of the main figures are vivid without being overdrawn.”

~ D. Patrick Miller, author of How to Be Spiritual Without Being Religious

“After reviewing the manuscript, I feel confident that libraries would do well to have this book available for their young patrons. In a world that seems to become more frightening by the day, this book is a call to action for young people to learn mindfulness skills as well as how to become more present in the moment, thus allowing them to gain an understanding of how to carry on no matter what their future holds. Young readers will connect with both the human and animal characters while learning about the ecosystems of the Everglades. This story of interconnectedness is a timely topic.”

~ Grace Kastens, Public Library Director

“This story brings the Everglades to life in a charming way, with characters and scenes that are a joy to spend time with. An excellent mix of adventure and humor, with many poignant moments (and some incredible imagery of alligator yoga!).”

~ Phil Williams, teacher and bestselling author

“The plot is interesting… The characters are well drawn… The dialog is very real, very natural, and in many places, very funny… The structure is very good… All in all, very good work.

~ Joanne Fowler, retired teacher

“It was excellent! I would never have picked a middle-grade book to read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

~ Geri Morgan, grandmother

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

 


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Starred Review from BlueInk

Enchanted Everglades BlueInk Starred Review

Thank you, BlueInk for a starred review! This is the best Christmas present! Note that the page numbers and price may change as we adjust the final layout sometime late January or early February. We are hoping for a publishing date sometime in March or April. Blessings to all of you during the Holiday and New Year!

https://www.blueinkreview.com/


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“Everything Will Be All Right” Song

Asha, the wood stork, sings this song to Ellen during a difficult moment in the story. I wrote the melody, lyrics, and produced the song with a talented musical arranger Ron Ochs. Nate Mason was the mixing engineer as well the drummer. Ziv mixed and mastered the recording. The talented musicians were from Airgigs.com.

Verse 1

Do not worry, do not cry

Never let your spirits die

Keep your chin up to the skies

Trusting everything will be, all right

Chorus

You will always be

Where you are meant to be

Learn from every situation

Stay on path to its fruition

Keep the faith, don’t fall apart

Let your love comfort your heart

Everything will be all right

Everything will be all right, in the end.

Verse 2

Little angel, hear me now

You will get through this somehow

Let your face glow with a smile

Knowing everything will be all right

Chorus (2x)

You will always be

Where you are meant to be

Learn from every situation

Stay on path to its fruition

Keep the faith, don’t fall apart

Let your love comfort your heart

Everything will be all right,

Everything will be all right in the end.

Everything will be all right in the end.

 

Copyright © 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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“Today is a Very Special Day” Song

Bix, a young soft-shelled turtle, sings this song one morning. I composed the melody, lyrics, and produced the song with a talented instrumental arranger named Andy Ellis Valdini. He also played the live violin and piano. The singer–Gideon Nasby–has the cutest voice! Tarik Ghiradella played the drums; Andrew Timothy, the guitar. Peter Duff and Ziv mixed the sound recording. I hired everyone through Airgigs.com.

TODAY IS A VERY SPECIAL DAY by Gail Kowatch

 I love today! It’s gonna be a great day!

 Verse 1

The sun warms my face

The rain tickles my nose

It doesn’t matter what the weather holds

‘Cause I’m gonna have a great day.

Verse 2

I swim to first place

I can bumble the race

It doesn’t matter if I win or lose

‘Cause I’m gonna have a great day.

Prechorus

I feel terrific! I feel amazing!

I’m going to give, my smile, to everyone,

I meet and greet today!

Chorus

Today, today is a very special day

Today, today is going my way

It’s one of a kind

It’s here then it’s gone

And so, I’m going to make today, the best day ever!

Verse 3

Some kids make me smile

Some kids squabble with me

It doesn’t matter how they are to me

‘Cause I’m gonna have a great day.

Verse 4

I can run and play

I have sniffles today

It doesn’t matter what my body feels

‘Cause I’m gonna have a great day.

Prechorus

I feel terrific! I feel amazing!

I’m going to give, my smile, to everyone,

I meet and greet today!

Chorus

Today, today is a very special day

Today, today is, going my way

It’s one of a kind

It’s here then it’s gone

And so, I’m going to make today, the best day ever!

I’m going to give, my smile, to everyone,

I meet and greet today!

Have a great day everyone! Love you!

 

Copyright © 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you. With love,

Gail

Copyright © 2014Copyright © 2020 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Great Rays Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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“Thank You” song

gumbo-grayscale pavlet_edited-1

In this scene, Gumbo prances around thanking various animals and insects as they trek through the Everglades. Can you imagine this in your mind as an animation movie and musical?

Ezemdi Chikwendu sang it, and Andy Ellis Valdini arranged and performed the instrumentals. Andy also arranged the “Today is a very Special Day” song. Ziv mixed and mastered the demo. I thank all of them for doing such a wonderful job.

I hope you enjoy it and sing along.

Thank You by Gail Kowatch

Verse 1

I am grateful

for my friends and family

I am grateful

For our beautiful world

I am grateful

For everything in my life

Chorus

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank everything

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

Verse2

I am grateful

For all the lessons of love

I am grateful

For the challenges I face

I am grateful

For another day to live

Chorus

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank everything

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

Bridge

I thank everyone

Who protect us

Who care for us

I thank everyone

Who do what’s right

Who fight for rights

And care for our land

Chorus (2x)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank everything

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank you (Thank you)

Thank all of you

 

Illustration on this post by Terry Pavlet.

Copyright 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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“I Need to be Brave” song

ella-final pavlet-1

Here is the lyric video for the 5th song in the script book. Once again, the talented Ziv arranged and performed the instrumentals. Ariel Petrie sang the song as Ellen. She was also in the duet with Ziv, “My Friend For Life.” Thanks to both of you for helping me create this demo!

I NEED TO BE BRAVE by Gail Kowatch

Verse 1

Why did you leave me

Was it your time to

You didn’t say, goodbye

I miss you so much

Wish I could see you

Wish I could hear you, telling me

Chorus

I need to be brave

to face stormy days

I need to be brave

to face all my fears

I need to be brave

I need to be brave

‘Cause I am never alone

Verse 2

When I dream of you

I can hug you tight

Please visit me, tonight

 Now I can feel you

Like a white angel

Whispering to me, telling me

Chorus

I need to be brave

to face stormy days

I need to be brave

to face all my fears

I need to be brave

I need to be brave

‘Cause I am never alone

Ohhhhh

I need to be brave

Ohhhhh

I need to be brave

I need to be brave

Chorus

I need to be brave

to face stormy days

I need to be brave

to face all my fears

I need to be brave

I need to be brave

‘Cause I am never alone

Illustration on this post by Terry Pavlet.

Copyright 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved


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“In My Heart” song

ocean-final pavlet-1_edited-1

Ziv was the talented singer, musical arranger, performer, and mixer for this demo. All the repeating of the “in my heart” was his original ad-lib. What would I do, if I hadn’t, hired this amazing artist? I am so grateful to you Ziv.

Before the music becomes available on iTunes and CDBaby, I might update the lyrics and change a few things.

IN MY HEART by Gail Kowatch

Verse 1

It’s been a while since I saw you

Things didn’t end like I wanted

I wish I could turn back the time

To change the things that broke us apart

Chorus

What would I do if I hadn’t,

Kept you in my heart

I can handle it

I can handle it

I can do all things

with you in my heart.

Verse 2

They say that time should heal my pain

But I’ve been hurt for a long time

I’ve spent so many days alone

Everyday still hurts the same as before

Chorus

What would I do if I hadn’t,

Kept you in my heart

I can handle it

I can handle it

I can do all things

With you in my heart

I can handle it

I can handle it

With you in my heart

In my heart (3x)

Verse 3

My life goes on. I’ve learned some things

I’ve made new friends, who remind me

That even though I’ve let you go

You’ll always have a special place, here

In my heart

Chorus

I can handle it

I can handle it

I can do all things with you

I can do all things with you

In my heart (5x)

 

Illustration on this post by Terry Pavlet.

Copyright 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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“My Friend For Life” Orchestral Version of Theme Song

Here is the orchestral version (movie score) of “MY FRIEND FOR LIFE” arranged and performed by the talented and kind artist, Ron Ochs, the same musician who arranged and performed “EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT” in my other post. Brandon Davis played live drums. Ziv mixed and mastered the demo. Check out airgigs.com!

 

Copyright © 2015 Great Rays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.