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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Face to Face with Manatees, written by Brian Skerry. National Geographic, Random House. 2010. $21.95 ages 5 and up

"When early explorers sailed to the Americas, many of them reported seeing mermaids along the coast. Today, we know that they were probably looking at manatees."

If you have not yet seen this amazing series of books from National Geographic, get out there and look them up. I counted 26 Face to Face titles on their website and I think that every one of them would provide hours of reading pleasure for interested young readers. The format doesn't change much, and that makes these books even more accessible and helpful to avid researchers in the early and intermediate grades.

Brian Skerry has been photographing the ocean and its stories for three decades. His passion for his subject is obvious in his stunning work, and in the text he creates to accompany it. Having spent more than 10,000 hours underwater, he knows his subject intimately and is able to convey that knowledge to his audience.
In this guide to the manatee and its environs, he provides clear and accurate information. He shows the connection these gentle giants have to humans, and their behavior in a familiar and safe habitat.:

"Katherine turned around. She was face to face with a young manatee. It was curious and wanted to play. They swam together gently, moving away from the shore. When Katherine stopped swimming, the calf turned around and came back to her. They swam together for about ten minutes. But for Katherine, those ten minutes will last a lifetime!"

What an experience for a father and daughter to share!
In sidebars we learn they love shallow water, they eat up to 150 pounds of food each day, and they can live 50 years or longer. As with other books in this series, Brian Skerry encourages his readers to take an active part in learning about the many animals of the ocean, and to help in the fight to preserve their natural habitats. He explains the cost to the manatee population from motor boats, harassment and the loss of their warm-water home.

There is much to learn about these curious 'sea cows'. The more we know about them, the more likely we are to care about their future. A glossary, a list of related readings and websites and an index are provided for those interested in knowing more about them.

Be sure to check for them at the library or your local bookstore.

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