Missing Manatee

by Cynthia DeFelice
Reading level: Ages 9-12
© 2005

The Story

Skeet Waters is out cruising in his skiff when he discovers a dead manatee washed up on the shore. Upon closer examination, he sees that it has been shot. Manatees are protected by law, especially in the refuge near Skeet’s Florida home. Who would want to shoot one of the sweet, harmless creatures, anyway? Skeet goes to get help, but when he returns with the sheriff’s deputy, the manatee is gone.
Skeet learns that things are not always as they seem in this taut, nautical adventure story.


Nominated for a 2006 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America
Chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection
A Booklist Top 10 Mystery/Suspense for Youth

Look for activities for The Missing Manatee in the Children’s Book Corner

A Read-Aloud Resource with Tips, Techniques, and Plans for Teachers, Librarians and Parents, Level Pre-K-K by Judy Bradbury. (http://www.lu.com)


“DeFelice keenly evokes the feel of a Gulf fishing town – the glimpses of tourists, the sense of water stretching up rivers and coves, the simple pleasure Skeet feels in his familiar surroundings. Skeet’s dawning realization about the identity of the manatee’s killer is filled with just the right amount of tension – counterpoint to the family issues he’s grappling to understand – and the reader’s empathy will be engaged as Skeet discovers that things aren’t always what they seem.” – Kirkus Reviews

“DeFelice delivers a fast-paced mystery with a strong sense of place. Her lengthy description of the subtleties of tarpon fishing will grab young lovers of outdoor adventures. These elements, along with strong characters and an effective first-person narration, create an exciting whole, sure to hook readers.” – Booklist

“Skeet Waters’ spring vacation takes a nosedive when he overhears his mother telling his father that their marriage is over. Upset and angry, Skeets boats out into the Gulf of Mexico. Returning via an obscure river channel, he discovers a dead manatee, a protected species, with blood still trickling from a bullet hole. Sickened by the violent death, Skeet goes for help, but when he returns, the huge manatee has disappeared. To unravel the mystery and understand what is happening in his own life, Skeet will have to to use Dirty Dan’s fishing advice and look below the surface.

“Like the combination platter at the Golden Moon where Skeet and Memaw dine, this novel has many delights. Set in Chassacoochie Springs, Florida, with plenty of fishing action, it is also loaded with issues that concern youth – parental ighting and decision making. Above all, the characters shine. Skeet is a typical eleven-year-old, putting off his homework but jumping at the chance to go tarpon fishing with the colorful Dirty Dan. Grandmother Memaw is unforgettable. With blond hair piled high and dressed in red cowboy boots and spangles, Memaw dazzles the crowd and wins the karaoke contest. But Memaw also prods Skeet into confronting Dan about the missing manatee. The mystery speeds to a satisfying conclusion, and although readers will be sorry to leave these friends, Skeet’s Chinese menu theory of “Growing Yourself Up” will leave food for thought. Early middle schoolers and slightly older reluctant readers will savor the story.” VOYA, June 2005 – Booklist

“DeFelice offers a realistic adventure story that is fast paced and full of drama. Skeet faces many difficult problems throughout the book, each with serious consequences, and his first-person narrative rings true. The characters are multifaceted and well developed, and the story should prompt readers to think about cause and effect.” SLJ, June 2005

Missing Manatee by Cynthia DeFelice
Paperback – 192 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (April 8, 2005)
ISBN: 0374312575