Finding a book at a yard sale is such kismet. There are a lot of books at yard sales. Mostly, I find a lot of book fair paperbacks that kids have outgrown. Not that there is anything wrong with those… they just don’t convey the magic of the “special” books that I find.
One of those is J. Rooker, manatee by Jan Haley and artist Paul Brent. J. Rooker is a Florida manatee who was injured by a boat when he was young. He is rescued and rehabilitated by scientists before being released back into Rookery Bay where he was found.
Folks. I can’t read this story without crying. And I don’t consider myself an animal lover. There, I said it. You’d never catch me sporting a “Save the Manatees” bumper sticker.
But oh, this book! It’s long, by picture book standards. The story is told full of emotion and compassion and with lots of details. Kids find out what manatees eat and what dangers they face as the story unfolds. They get a sense of the manatee’s size as people load the injured baby onto a truck. It tells of the relationship between the manatees and between the manatees and the humans who care for them. The story imparts on our kids why it’s so important for naturalists, scientists, and biologists to intervene on behalf of manatees to preserve their numbers and keep balance in our ecosystem.
JT has been to the aquarium in Tampa…
And we’ll go back. In the meantime, J. Rooker is one of our favorite books. Aside from the story – which is based on a true story, by the way – there is plenty of information about manatees and the zoos and foundations studying and helping wildlife in Florida. There is room for my kid to grow into this book as he learns to read. It’s one that we’ll have on our shelf for a while – inspiring adventures and learning every time we pick it up.