In a remote Amazon village, Manuela and her cousin Libia convince an entire village to cease manatee fishing after the two girls rescue, nurture, and release a manatee calf Manuela accidentally speared while hunting its mother.
Watching a manatee die and holding the injured calf she calls Airuwe in her arms is enough to turn Manuela from aspiring manatee hunter to conservationist, but it takes much longer for her to fulfill the silent promise she made to preserve the baby. Raising an orphaned mammal is difficult enough, but there are also threats from both the human and the natural world: the unsavory Clink-Clink, who wants to sell it, and powerful rainy-season floods. Luckily, the girls have the support of their grandmother, a nurse with veterinary experience, and, after an intensive campaign, the community. The third-person narration distances readers a bit, but it allows Davies to weave in details about Amazonian culture and setting as well as the endangered manatees while maintaining gentle suspense. Libia, limping and stunted from a childhood illness, proves skillful in a canoe, and both girls are imaginative and resourceful. Each short chapter includes a grayscale illustration done with brush and pen. Words potentially unfamiliar to general readers are defined in footnotes.
Previously published in England as Manatee Baby (2013), this appealing animal-survival adventure is based on a true episode described in an afterword. (Fiction. 8-12)