Book review: Manatee Rescue, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Annabel Wright

Davies, Nicola. Manatee Rescue. Ill. Annabel Wright. Candlewick Press, 2015. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-9830-2. 105 pages. Ages 7-14. P8Q9

davies-manatee-rescueManuela is an unusual girl who lives in an Amazon River village. She prefers fishing with her dad, Silvio, to going to school. When she and Silvio hunt and kill a manatee, everything is turned upside down. What she had thought would be an amazing accomplishment feels like murder, and Manuela becomes determined to save the manatee calf. She and Silvio bring the dead manatee and her living calf home to the village to share the meat. Manuela, along with her cousin, Libia, decide to rescue the calf that they named Airuwe. They end up kidnapping him and hiding him at their grandmother’s house. The girls develop a five-point action plan to raise the pup until weaned, to educate the area villages about the importance of preserving manatees, and to eventually release Airuwe back into the wild.  Number four, getting people to agree not to hunt manatees, was proving to be the most difficult. The author writes beautifully about how the girls educate others about manatees and later writes, “There was still no checkmark beside number four, but sometimes changes happen too slowly to be checked off anyone’s list.” Evidence on where the village people stand on hunting manatee surfaces towards the end of the book when a villager returns with manatee meat. My favorite theme is that Manuela remains true to herself in that she still went fishing on the river with Silvio, but she never missed school to do it anymore.  There was a reason to work at her studies now, she wanted to find out more about manatees and the other animals that lived in the river. The author is able to tell an exciting story, in a realistic setting, dappled with Spanish terms while educating the reader about manatee preservation. The black and white illustrations add interest and understanding.

Summer 2016 review by Penny McDermott.