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Manatee's Best Friend

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Perfect for fans of Catherine Hapka -- a heartwarming story about a girl who must find her voice, with lots of manatee and dolphin fun along the way!
Becca Wong Walker may be so shy that most people at school think she doesn't speak at all, but why should she care? She has more important things to worry about. Missy, the manatee who visits the dock in Becca's backyard, and Becca's only friend, hasn't been seen for a long time. When Missy finally does return, she has a new baby with her! Becca wants to be excited, but more than ever inconsiderate boaters are speeding through the river, putting the lives of Missy and her baby in terrible danger.

One day, Becca spots a dolphin in the river too! By bonding over the dolphin and manatees, Becca finally starts to make friends at school. But when Becca takes a video that goes viral, it seems like it will be harder than ever to save the manatees... and trying might just tear Becca's new friendships apart.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2021

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About the author

Sylvia Liu

5 books109 followers
Sylvia Liu grew up with books and daydreams in Caracas, Venezuela. Once an environmental attorney protecting the oceans, she now spins stories for children, inspired by high tech, ghost crabs, and strong girls. Sylvia lives in Virginia with her family and a very fluffy cat.

Visit her website at enjoyingplanetearth.com and follow her on Twitter (@artsylliu).

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 2 books370 followers
May 17, 2021
MANATEE'S BEST FRIEND, by Sylvia Liu, is the perfect book for the animal lover and budding activist. When boat traffic threatens a manatee that often visits the dock behind her Florida home, shy Becca must find her voice and figure out a way to effect change and help her animal friend. But doing so is hard, particularly when activism meets the real world. The livelihood of Becca's community, including her own family, is directly connected to development and tourism, making her quest to help the manatees an especially challenging line to walk. MANATEE'S BEST FRIEND features friendship (with both humans AND animals), humor (manatee farts!), and plenty of facts about manatees and the dangers they face. If a young reader asked me for a novel about animals, I would send her straight to this one. My thanks to the author, to Scholastic, and to Edelweiss for the eARC.
Profile Image for Alysa.
Author 2 books87 followers
May 21, 2021
What a wonderfully inspiring story, perfect for budding environmentalists, activists, and anyone who loves a good story! Shy Becca has a hard time speaking up for herself and making friends with other kids. But she isn't without confidentes - she looks forward to spending time every day with Missy, the manatee and her new baby. But she's also concerned about her friend as increasing boat traffic threatens Missy, her baby, and the rest of the manatee population.
When a school project throws Becca together with her new, outgoing neighbor, and a funny, gregarious boy from her class, Becca finds herself in new social territory. Worries abound - will she say the wrong thing and scare her new friends off? And will her father's plans for an X-games type boating contest on the river threaten her manatee friends?
MANATEE'S BEST FRIEND is a story of friendship, stewardship, activism, and finding your own voice. A wonderful and inspiring tale that I think readers will love!
Thanks to Scholastic and Edelweiss + for the E-Arc.
Profile Image for Sam Subity.
Author 1 book45 followers
December 9, 2020
Kids will be inspired by this story about a painfully shy girl who finds her voice speaking up for the manatees because they can't speak for themselves. When the increasing use of motorized vehicles in the waterways around her Florida hometown pose a risk to the manatee population, Becca risks losing a budding friendship and even opposing her dad's business plans to stand up for what she believes in. This one is perfect for fans of Carl Hiaasen's Hoot series!
Profile Image for Melissa Dassori.
Author 1 book18 followers
May 27, 2021
Manatee's Best Friend is a charming and inspiring story about activism, family, friendship, and getting up the courage to speak out. Sylvia Liu weaves in facts about manatees and their changing habitat in a seamless way that will stick with readers and excite budding scientists while equally succeeding at creating a book filled with spunk and heart. So cheered by this read, and my thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an eARC.
5 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2021
This is such a wonderful middle grade book! Perfect for shy kids trying to find their voices, budding environmentalists and animal lovers. I finished it in one sitting and was misty-eyed by the end. The story is beautiful and the characters, especially Becca, truly touched my heart. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Dylan West.
Author 2 books33 followers
August 4, 2021
Beautiful story. No boring parts.

You don't have to be an eco-minded person to enjoy this book. I'm not really into manatees or wildlife conservation, but this book still hit the spot. I loved watching Becca emerge from her straightjacket of shyness to speak up for her manatee friends, and found it fascinating how she felt, all the way up till the climax, that she had to oppose some of her loved ones in order to protect the manatees. And the way she resolves this dilemna is clever and satisfying :)

Sylvia's writing style is clean, completely readable, and free of cliché. There were plenty of moments where I laughed out loud and startled my sleeping cats. When this author releases another book, I will snatch it up on day one, just as I have with this one.
Profile Image for Jen.
420 reviews18 followers
July 25, 2021
I really love that the lead on this one is young and yet full of dedication and courage to do and fight for what she believes in. It's nice to read about young people, speaking up about the environment and animals and their will to protect it. The story is really entertaining and inspiring as well as the characters.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books71 followers
August 16, 2021
In 1988 when my husband and I were still dating, we took a trip to Florida with our canoe. One misty morning, we set out on the canoe at Blue Spring State Park where we had camped for the night. We were the only ones on the water. While we were quietly paddling, a large pod of manatees appeared below our canoe. We stopped padding and just drifted over these magnificent creatures who floated lazily below, occasionally stopping to peer at us (possibly laughing at the goofy, enthralled expressions on our faces). This incredible moment lasted for a mere half hour, but I have never forgotten it.

Ever since that magical meeting, I’ve been in love with manatees and been concerned about their plight. So, I was simply delighted to see this wonderful middle grade book about a girl who overcomes her shyness, makes new friends, AND saves the manatees in her waterfront backyard by working with her new friends and learning how to take a stand. The believable and sympathetic characters puts a reader right in the thick of things and you can’t help but cheer when the manatees catch a break thanks to their clever plan, while the town doesn’t lose out on the tourism that it so badly wants.

Highly readable with an engaging voice, good pace, and optimistic ending, this book is sure to appeal to readers of all ages…and hopefully will make more people care about the plight of these gentle creatures.
Profile Image for Candi.
86 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2021
What a great story about two manatees and a girl. Becca Wong Walker becomes the hero in this tale in her effort to fight for their safety against speeding boats and jet skis. A science project in school gives her the opportunity to spread the concern and awareness of manatees.

This is a heartwarming story that will make you happy for Missy, Sunny, the dolphin and brave Becca. I recommend this book for the whole family.

Thank you Books Forward for this ARC.
Profile Image for MaykenAlanna.
106 reviews
September 17, 2021
I’m a swimmer, and I’ve dreamed for a long time of swimming with some marine animals, whether they are dolphins or sea turtles. But to be honest, I hadn’t been aware of manatees, until one day I was told they are nicknamed sea cows – and if you know anything about me, you know how much I love cows.

Becca, the human main character of Manatee’s best friend, is lucky enough to live in a part of the world where you can see manatees in the wild, namely Florida, and even better, she has wild manatees practically in her own backyard! (Jealous, me?)
However, as is so often the case, the local wildlife is endangered by human activity. Becca wants to speak up for her manatee friends, but she barely manages to speak to anyone outside her family, which unfortunately includes the girl who just moved in next door.
As it becomes clear the human activity in the river where the manatees feed is increasing, Becca needs to make a move – but when she does, things only get worse.

I loved this story of a girl befriending wild sea cows and finding the courage to take action to protect them.
Profile Image for Laurie Hnatiuk.
372 reviews
August 5, 2021
I am using a new review format.

5 - Sentence Summary
Becca is shy and nervous in large groups struggling to talk, except for Missy, a manatee with whom she shares all of her thoughts. Becca loves manatees and worries about the many boats that ignore the slow wake zone in her waterfront home in Florida. An unexpected science project pairs her with her new neighbour Amelia and jokester Deion focusing on manatees. When Becca makes her video public showing a dolphin saving Missy and her calf from a speeding boat, it goes viral, and now Becca must navigate new friendships and an abundance of attention. On top of that, Becca's father and new neighbour plan to bring in more tourists meaning more boats that could hurt Missy and the manatees; Becca must find her voice.

4 - Opinions
I love that Sylvia Liu has chosen to highlight manatees. I had the chance to swim with them in Cyrstal River - something I had not intended to do and would love to do it again. Manatees are gentle giants, intriguing, and gives an unfamiliar animal a chance to be in the spotlight. Many readers will relate to the shyness and being uncomfortable speaking in public and see the growth of Becca finally overcoming her shyness to share her passion with the manatees. The awkwardness of figuring out friendships and the tension within her friend Amelia's family gives readers another connection. Finally, the relationship within Becca's family and Becca feeling she was not listened to by her father will also hit home for many. The story shares how kids their age can be activists and make a difference in the world today, and the animal connection will make this another popular read.

3 - Similar Titles
One Small Hop by Madelyn Rosenberg
The Adventure is Now by Jess Redman
The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

2 - Picture Book Connections
This is a Sea Cow by Cassandra Federman
Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton

1 -Creator Contact
Sylvia Liu is on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram and has a website.

First Line Blastoff
The bus ba-bumps over the root-crumbled corner of our street.
Profile Image for Steve Tetreault.
1,266 reviews
March 27, 2023
When alone, Becca can talk enthusiastically about manatee's and sea life - her passion. She loves to take videos of the local manatee that comes by the dock in her back yard and practice for her future TV show as a famous marine biologist. But when anyone else is around, she's as silent as a clam. Becca has a very strong social anxiety, to the point that she has no (human) friends.

But when Amelia moves in next door, and gets put into a science project group with Becca and class clown Deion, Becca finds herself slowly opening up.

Unfortunately, Becca's and Amelia's father's are both working on business ideas that will bring more powerboats to the area - which will endanger the manatee population that relies on the area in the winter for its warm springs.

Can Becca overcome her anxiety and speak up before her manatee friend is killed by careless boaters?

I appreciated all the marine biology worked into the story - I can easily see readers wanting to find more information about manatee's and dolphins as they make their way through the story.

I also really liked that the middle school protagonists find a way to express their interests and get their voices heard. It's a good lesson on civic engagement & responsibility.

The idea of the story is great, and the anxiety Becca deals with is set up very realistically, with the character pointing out that adults' frequent admonition to "just try harder" and "get over it" are not actually useful strategies. But this important angle of the story felt a bit undercut at the end when Becca essentially does just that. And Becca cones up with a brilliant idea on the spot to wrap up the story, which felt too contrived; the idea was good, but didn't seem to fit her character. After all the complaints from her friends that Becca hugged all the glory, it would have been a great moment to have THEM come up with the day-saver. But these are pretty minor quibbles.
6,949 reviews26 followers
October 2, 2021
Becca struggles to find her voice and her courage as the book opens. Her only friend is the manatee that comes near their dock. She finds her courage and risks making friends with two others in her class and they decide to do their science project on keeping manatees safe from boaters. When a video she created about a dolphin saving the manatee and her baby goes viral, Becca feels completely overwhelmed. She pulls away from her friends and can't make herself heard by her parents.
By the end, Becca finds her voice and speaks up to protect the manatees. She also figures out how to be a friend and to risk trusting others.
Profile Image for Jessica Vitalis.
Author 4 books144 followers
October 21, 2021
The main character in this story, Becca, will be relatable to so many middle grade readers who are quiet and have trouble making connections at school. Luckily, Becca has a friend in the manatee that she often meets near her house. When the manatee has a baby, Becca couldn't be more delighted. But boat traffic threatens her friends, and when Becca makes a video that goes viral, the traffic threatens to get far worse. Becca ends up bonding with other children her age, but in the end, she's going to have to learn to speak up to the entire community––and her boat loving father––if she's to stand any chance of protecting her beloved manatees.
Profile Image for Terry Jennings.
Author 15 books28 followers
November 2, 2022
Becca can’t talk. Not in school. Not in public. Not enough to make friends. The one true friend she has is a manatee, Missy, and now Missy’s gone missing. When Missy returns with calf in tow, Becca’s excitement bubbles over and even though it feels very strange, she talks to her new glamorous next door neighbor about the pair and her fears for their safety. A science project garners Becca another possible friend, and even though it’s a bumpy road, Becca begins to find her voice. A beautiful story about the importance of conservation and the value of friendship. Perfect book for young activists and wildlife lovers
Profile Image for Rachel D.
2 reviews
August 8, 2021
Manatee’s Best Friend by Sylvia Liu, felt like it was absolutely written for my manatee-obsessed sixth-grade self. Sadly, it came out seventeen years too late for that- but this book is still completely CHARMING, I could not have loved it more. Excuse me while I buy a copy for every single young person in my life. What a perfect confluence of dynamic characters with real world problems, a wholesome educational yet contemporary plot, and the take away feeling that young readers can make a difference in their own corners of the world. Five Stars
Profile Image for Joanne.
Author 2 books25 followers
August 12, 2021
I really enjoyed this middle-grade novel about Becca Wong Walker, a shy Florida girl with no friends except a manatee who occasionally visits her family's dock. A science project at school gives Becca a chance to make friends with a new girl, Amelia, and a boy named Deion. Will Becca be able to convince them both to do their group project on manatees, who are in danger from boats and jet skis? Will she learn to speak up in time to save them? An enchanting story that deals with animals, nature, friendship, and learning to speak up for yourself. Perfect for schools!
Profile Image for Richard Knight.
Author 6 books55 followers
August 21, 2021
Manatee's Best Friend is an excellent Middle Grade book that children will absolutely adore. It's about a shy girl named Becca who loves manatees with her full heart and soul. But she's troubled as motorboats blast by her house and she's worried that they will strike the manatees that come by to see her. By a chance video she makes, she brings great awareness to the situation, but now she has to come out of her shell of being the shy girl. Thankfully, she meets some great friends along the way who want to help her in her cause. I really loved this book, and I'm so glad I read it. Top notch!
Profile Image for Maria Marshall.
362 reviews67 followers
December 6, 2021
Overcoming severe shyness, Becca must team up with the new girl and the class clown to create a science project and most importantly find a way to save her beloved manatee, Missy, from the increasing number of speeding boats and jet skis zipping about the river. It's a great story of standing up to a town and your family for one's values and protecting wildlife despite one's fears. And about the growth of some important friendships along the way. Packed with information on manatees, dolphins, and wildlife preservation, this is a great informational fiction MG novel.
Profile Image for Erin.
646 reviews20 followers
August 22, 2021
Kids are going to love this book! Who wouldn't love to live next to a river and make friends with a manatee that visits you each day? Becca also faces challenges. Making (human) friends is not easy for her as she deals with extreme shyness. And then, as she works to protect the manatees from speeding boats she finds herself at odds with her father's business and livelihood. This is a must buy for school libraries!
Profile Image for Julie.
686 reviews15 followers
October 2, 2021
I love that this book highlights an animal that doesn't usually get the spotlight in MG books (usually dogs, horses, pigs, but not manatees). I think many young readers will relate to Becca's feelings of being too young or not brave enough to speak up in front of others, even when you are passionate about things. I think Becca's courage will be inspiring to readers.

The animal connection in the book (plus the viral videos) will make this book appealing to middle grade readers!
Profile Image for Eli.
60 reviews3 followers
December 15, 2021
I wanted to like this because reviews rave about the subject. Who doesn’t love stories about kids who are champions for environmental causes?! But the dialogue and descriptions are not great. As if the author maybe had never met a child and only heard them talking on Disney channel once. I need someone I know at our library to read it and convince me to give it a try again. Glad others liked it, happy for you. I’ll go read another book.
Profile Image for Elia.
38 reviews
January 13, 2022
This is a sweet, funny, and sensitive middle grade novel with a strong theme of conservation running through it. I enjoyed seeing the main character, Becca, a very shy girl, blossom and grow as the story progressed, and am sure many kids who feel they don't fit in for one reason or another will appreciate this book. The descriptions of the coastal Florida landscape are lovely, and readers will also learn quite a bit about manatees along the way.
Profile Image for Jessica Grace Kelley.
23 reviews1 follower
August 26, 2021
This book is a fantastic book about friendship. Great for young readers who struggle with social anxiety and are interested in marine biology and environmental activism. As a Floridian who loved to watch the manatees as a kid, I can truly say the author nailed the setting! This book felt like a peek into part of my childhood.
Profile Image for Noa Nimrodi.
Author 2 books16 followers
March 2, 2022
Becca is a charming and relatable character who overcomes her shyness when her concern for the wellbeing of the manatees outweighs her quiet nature. Sure to inspire and empower
young environmentalists to take a stand when it comes to important issues (in which they might otherwise feel like they’re too young to make an impact)
Profile Image for Jenny Mattern.
15 reviews1 follower
April 29, 2022
I read Manatee's Best Friend aloud with my 10-year-old, animal-loving daughter. We both really enjoyed the story, and my daughter was especially delighted to learn a lot of new facts about manatees and dolphins. This sweet story of friendship and finding your voice is perfect for middle-grade readers.
Profile Image for Bethe.
5,850 reviews51 followers
January 9, 2023
Delightful story of a girl who struggles with social interaction at school, who considers a manatee that frequently visits her family’s dock as her best friend. Becca gains her voice as she reluctantly works with classmates on a project to help protect her beloved manatees. Great ecological activism vibe, back matter with more info.
Profile Image for Jennifer Halbur.
132 reviews3 followers
August 30, 2021
Students will enjoy learning about manatees in this book. Becca’s only friend is a manatee until a group project helps her start to make friends. Can they educate adults about the dangers boats bring to manatees?
Profile Image for Kirsti Call.
Author 7 books57 followers
August 11, 2021
Well written, engaging and informative! Perfect for passionate kids who want to make a difference in the world, this book shows that no matter your age, you can make the world a better place!
281 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2021
Such a cute story for upper elementary or lower MG! The cover is delightful as is the story! I enjoyed this read!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews

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