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Friday, March 18, 2016

Manatee Rescue, by Nicola Davies with illustrations by Annabel Wright. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"She held on tight. "Papa. don't sell the manatee to Mr. Gomez, please." Silvio's smile disappeared. He looked astonished, as if wondering why his daughter was behaving like this. She was always so practical. They always agreed on everything. "But, Frog, he'll give us a good price," Silvio said, bewildered. "Come on, give it to me!" Manuela shook her head."

Nicola Davies is a skilled writer and a passionate protector of animals living in the wild. She knows that the more informed we are about them and the more sympathetic to their plight, the more we will strive to make the world a better place for all living things. We can make a difference!

The Heroes of the Wild novels are written for readers between 8 and 12 years of age. They are meant to raise awareness to the issues that threaten species around the world, and to encourage young people to become involved in making changes that need to be made.

A remote Amazon village is the setting for this hopeful story. We meet Manuela and her father as they fish offshore. They have caught little and are discouraged when they happen to see a manatee surfacing nearby. To hunt and catch a manatee is a prized endeavor. It will ensure money for the family through the sale of the meat, and an elevation of respect for her fisherman father, Silvio.

Once the manatee is dead and pulled into their canoe, they notice a calf nearby. They rescue it and take it to shore with them. It is a moment in time that changes everything Manuela has ever thought about the joy to be found in hunting the large mammal. With her arms around Airuwe, the wounded calf, she has a change of heart. She makes a promise to the calf, not realizing just how difficult it will be to keep it.

Having no experience to raise a wild animal, or previous understanding of the threats inherent in the natural world that surrounds her, Manuela becomes an advocate for the protection of the manatee. It is an unpopular stance until the people of her village have the opportunity to see the calf as it grows and flourishes under the watchful eyes of two young girls and an endlessly supportive grandmother. It may take a village to ensure its survival, but the story is proof positive to its young readers that they can have a voice and make a real difference.

Readers who have an affinity for animals will find much to like about this series. Other titles available are Whale Boy, Walking the Bear, The Elephant Road and The Lion Who Stole My Arm.

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