"A swimmingly fun, educational trip sure to be enjoyed by young friends of the manatee."– Kirkus Reviews
A manatee and his friends swim across the Gulf Stream and brave a hurricane on their way to the Bahamas in this colorful adventure for young readers.
In his second engaging children’s picture book, Thayer (Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida, 2013) expertly weaves in true-life weather facts with a simple but eventful tale. A resourceful manatee named Kobee sets out on a 300-mile swim from Key West, Florida, to Nassau with his friends, a hermit crab named Pablo and a purple, pink-maned sea horse called Tess. There, Kobee plans to surprise his sister, Kim, on her birthday. But before the travelers reach the festive celebration, amid the multicolored coral reefs of the Bahamas’ warm waters, they face some suspenseful challenges. First, there’s a scary waterspout and a thunderstorm at sea: “Two lightning bolts shot right past us. The sky rumbled and roared.” A spinning hurricane follows: “The east winds swirled….I went for air just as a GIANT wave spun us around like a washing machine.” Throughout the adventure, Kobee is both a navigator and educator; additional facts and figures, boxed and labeled “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” supplement the manatee’s explanations of the weather phenomena that the trio encounter. The book also tells its young audience, in text that doesn’t talk down to them, how to protect themselves in a thunderstorm, how storms rotate depending on the hemisphere they occupy, and how to identify different types of clouds: “white, wispy” cirrus, “creamy cotton” cumulus, and cirrocumulus resembling “fish scales.” Readers also learn of the two types of waterspouts (tornadic and fair weather), why the sky is blue, the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius, and that “a raindrop falls at an average speed of 17 miles per hour.” Despite the book’s encyclopedic quality, however, it’s a charming, simple story. The illustrations, rendered in colorful acrylic on illustration board, harmonize nicely with the active text, mixing real-world and fantasy elements in lavish sky and ocean settings.
An appealing picture book distinguished by its colorful images, creatively distilled meteorological facts, and simple but dynamic storytelling.
A manatee, a hermit crab and a sea horse make an unlikely but enjoyable trio as they share facts, fun and friendship down the Eastern Seaboard.
Thayer’s debut children’s book introduces readers to Kobee—a manatee in a purple newsboy cap and yellow shirt—as he swims from Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay to his Florida home of Blue Spring State Park. This affable marine mammal is not alone on his adventure. Tess, a sea horse, and then a South Carolina hermit crab named Pablo join him for his dip in the Atlantic Ocean and his search for warmer waters. Through their interactions, the reader learns more about manatees. Kobee, the tale’s narrator, proves an invaluable traveling companion: He provides cover, protects his friends from close calls with both a shark and a giant sea turtle, helps Pablo locate a new shell and leads the group on their journey to his manatee habitat. Kobee has his own dangerous encounter as he, Tess and Pablo narrowly escape a collision with a boat. He warns that it’s sometimes difficult for boats to sight him. He cautions, “One of my manatee friends was badly hurt by a boat propeller.” Not to worry, though: Kobee is appropriately careful and circumvents catastrophe throughout his exploits. Thayer’s charismatic characters are further animated through Gallegos’ vibrant, color-saturated illustrations, bringing the story to life. Readers, however, are pulled away from the illustrations and the narrative at times by “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” superimposed boxes that provide facts and information about manatees. This clunky stylistic choice, however, does not undermine the information they present. When Tess remarks about Kobee’s large size, the boxed information states, “The average manatee is 10 feet long and weighs between 800 to 1,200 pounds!” Between Kobee’s narration and Thayer’s trivia, this is an entertaining tool that one can easily imagine supplementing lessons in marine conservation or biology.
A swimmingly fun, educational trip sure to be enjoyed by young friends of the manatee.