In this latest installment of a science- and nature-based picture book series for young children, a curious manatee journeys with old and new aquatic friends to the site of a sunken ship.
Fresh from an eventful, hurricane-tossed swim from Key West, Florida, to the Bahamas, Kobee Manatee heads out for another undersea adventure in this third volume that continues the informative series by author Thayer (Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure, 2015, etc.) and illustrator Gallegos (Ernie’s Wish Tail, 2016, etc.). Accompanied by his pals Pablo, a hermit crab, and Tess, a sea horse, Kobee sets out for San Juan, Puerto Rico, in search of the wreckage of the SS Antonio López, a real-life, 19th-century ship sunk during the Spanish-American War. (Its description is one of “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” tidbits that are set apart from the story’s text and highlighted throughout the book’s colorful pages.) On the way to the ship, the band is joined by a lonely octopus named Ben. When Kobee is trapped by a beam while swimming through the wreck, Ben and new friends Alis, a playful goldentail moray eel, and Sandy, a nurse shark, try to help; the arrival of an old friend, Chester, a giant plankton-eating whale shark, saves the day. As with the first two books, the full-page images of ocean flora and fauna and the exaggerated features of Kobee and friends engage the eye in a rich palette of acrylic colors, and the “Fun Facts” scrolls offer depth without denying the young audience a lively story. Most of the well-conceived morsels of information here, again contributed by oceanographer and documentarian Fabien Cousteau, identify species of fish. They include some that children might recognize—lionfish, sawfish, parrot fish—and others likely to be new to them. Among the unfamiliar denizens of the deep: a damselfish, peppermint basslet, spotted eagle ray, and blue-striped grunts, which Tess describes as looking “like lemons with blue lines swimming.” A link to Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center is included for any reader interested in further exploration.
Another creative blending of real-life oceanography and gentle fantasy in a smart and entertaining series.